Health experts in Taiwan share storage tips after I-Mei milk taken off Costco shelves

Do you know the difference between HTST and UHT-treated milk products?

(Internet photo)

(Internet photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Experts have shared tips on how to keep milk fresher for longer in hot weather after a membership warehouse club temporarily halted milk sales due to quality concerns. 

Costco Wholesale Taiwan removed I-Mei milk from its shelves on Saturday after receiving customer complaints that it turned sour before the listed expiration date. The food giant issued a statement the following day, explaining that its flash pasteurization method, high-temperature short-time (HTST) processing, could lead to a shorter shelf life if the milk is not transported and stored at consistent low temperatures during summer.

I-Mei Foods CEO Luis Ko said that the company is dedicated to ensuring its foods contain zero pesticides, animal drugs, dioxin, or other harmful substance residues, but will continue to improve cold chain logistics to guarantee high quality.

Only a few branded milk products in Taiwan adopt the HTST pasteurization method, in which raw milk is heated to 84 degrees Celsius for 15 seconds to kill harmful microorganisms. The method results in far less nutritional loss when compared with the Ultra High Temperature (UHT) method.

HTST pasteurized milk can be refrigerated for up to 21 days, according to research, but in summer, its shelf life could be reduced if it is not handled properly.

According to a NewsMarket report, the majority of fresh milk suppliers in Taiwan adopt the UHT method, which can ensure a longer shelf life of 15 to 60 days. Only a few brands, such as I-Mei, Chu-lu Ranch, Four Ways Ranch, and NTU Farm, supply HTST-treated milk, which has stricter temperature storage requirements.

Food and Drug Administration Food Safety Division leader Pan Chih-kuan (潘志寬) told reporters on Sunday that the milk could have spoiled for many reasons, ranging from manufacturing, distributing and retailing to handling at the end of the consumer.

Pan advised people to remove milk from supermarket refrigerators only before heading to the checkout counter, and suggested keeping it with frozen products while shopping.

Homemakers United Foundation advised consumers not to store milk and eggs in the racks of refrigerator doors, where temperatures tend to fluctuate more than other areas. The foundation said the products should be stored in the main compartment of the refrigerator, where temperatures are relatively colder and more stable.

An on-sight inspection conducted by Taoyuan's Department of Public Health took place at the I-Mei milk processing plant on Monday. The health officials said the plant's standard operating procedure complies with national laws, and a preliminary report will be made public next week.