Shelf life testing of dairy products in China

China has discovered milk. In order to meet the demand of about 1.4 billion people, companies such as Bright Dairy & Food built state-of-the-art production facilities. In this report, AtmoSAFE pursued the question of why the Chinese have started drinking milk thousands of years after the Europeans and also visited the quality laboratory of Bright Dairy & Food. In the laboratory, a Memmert Peltier-cooled incubator is used for microbiological testing and shelf life testing.

Chinese agriculture is traditionally characterised by rice cultivation. Cattle were mainly bred for meat and not for dairy farming. However, this is changing at breakneck speed. Due to the widespread calcium deficiency in children, schools in China started to hand out free milk drinks starting in the 1990ies. Food from other cultures found its way into super markets and thus dairy products have now become an integral part of the diet of many Chinese.

The dairy industry in China

Although China is still a "developing country" when it comes to drinking milk, the dairy product market shows enormous growth rates. On average, each Chinese consumed 1.54 kg of fresh milk and 0.28 kg of yogurt in 2006. Germans, in comparison, consumed 53 kg of fresh milk and more than 16 kg of yogurt each. In 2013, the combined per capita consumption of milk and yogurt already increased to more than 11 kg in China. The national dairy industry is not able to meet the demand of the more than 1.3 billion people, which is why a large portion of dairy products consumed is imported from New Zealand, Germany or the USA. At the same time, companies like Bright Dairy & Food invest in creating modern and efficient production chains, from fodder cultivation and breeding cattle to large dairy farms.

Product quality as the main objective

Bright Food, the Shanghai-based parent company of Bright Dairy & Food with a history of more than 50 years, was the second largest food company in China in 2011. In addition to increasing its production capacities of milk, yogurt, ice cream, cheese and other dairy products, high product quality is the company's main objective. The focus in research and development as well as production is put on safety, freshness and nutrient content of Bright foods as well as on the health of consumers. The Chinese government is accelerating the implementation of strict standards like the traceability of batches or an unbroken cold chain during transport. For this reason, the quality assurance facilities at Bright Dairy & Food are of course technologically up to date. 

Since 2012, the food safety team at Bright Dairy & Food has been using a Memmert Peltier-cooled incubator IPP for microbiological testing and shelf life testing. Microbiological testing on fungal colonies is done at 20 °C with a duration of 3 to 5 days. During shelf life testing, the microbiological status of a product is however continuously tested over the entire shelf life period. In this case, the test duration and temperature in the cooled incubator vary from sample to sample. To obtain valid results, an exact temperature distribution and the smallest possible temperature deviations in the interior are essential. In addition to the simple user interface, long-term stability, energy efficiency as well as environmental friendliness were decision criteria in favour of the Memmert cooled incubator IPP.

AtmoSAFE would like to thank Bright Dairy & Food for the friendly support in creating this article.