Bacteria are unicellular microorganisms that form in large clusters. They come in multifarious shapes and are found everywhere on earth. In a hospitable environment bacteria proliferate profusely.
Bacteria are necessary and beneficial to life. However, a miniscule number are harmful and the root cause of infectious diseases. In certain substances, the presence of bacteria gives rise to chemical changes. One such substance is milk, a highly perishable product.
Coliforms and lactic acid are the two main groups of bacteria in milk. While pasteurization kills the vast majority of bacteria present in milk, some harmful bacteria remain. Lactic acid is natural bacteria found in milk and milk products. Coliforms are what actually cause milk to spoil. The consistency and appearance change when milk spoils. It also develops a sourish smell. Chemical changes take place in the spoiling process. The spoiling occurs because the acid in the milk which makes it clot.
To inhibit the effect of bacterial contamination, milk is best stored at temperatures from 34 to 38° F and certainly below 45° F. In the United States, there is no uniform guideline to determine the expiration date of milk. More often than not, it is left to the discretion of the manufacturer. However, New York City regulations stipulate an expiration date of 96 hours from 6:00 am on the date following pasteurization. Dairylea, a leading manufacturer, allows 10 to 12 days. In any event, due allowance is given to ensure the milk remains fresh and is consumable for a few days passed the expiration date.
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