The Importance of Measuring pH in Milk

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The measurement of pH in milk is important in testing for impurities, spoilage, and signs of mastitis infection. While there are a number of factors that affect the composition of milk, pH measurements can help producers understand what might be causing certain compositional changes. pH measurements are commonly performed at various points in a milk processing plant.

Fresh milk has a pH value of 6.7. When the pH value of the milk falls below pH 6.7, it typically indicates spoilage by bacterial degradation. Bacteria from the family of Lactobacillaceae are lactic acid bacteria (LAB) responsible for the breakdown of the lactose in milk to form lactic acid. Eventually, when the milk reaches an acidic enough pH, coagulation or curdling will occur along with the characteristic smell and taste of “sour ” milk.

Milk with pH values higher than pH 6.7 potentially indicate that the milk may have come from cows infected with mastitis. Mastitis is an ever-present challenge with dairy milking cows. When infected, the cow’s immune system releases histamine and other compounds in response to the infection. There is a resulting increase in permeability of endothelial and epithelial cell layers, allowing blood components to pass through a paracellular pathway. Since blood plasma is slightly alkaline, the resulting pH of milk will be higher than normal. Typically milk producers can perform a somatic cell count to detect a mastitis infection, but a pH measurement offers a quick way to screen for infection.

Understanding the pH of raw milk can also help producers optimise their processing techniques. For example, in operations that use Ultra High Temperature (UHT) processing, even small variations from pH 6.7 can affect the time required for pasteurisation and the stability of the milk after treatment.

GenCat31_1p1_Page_124The best way to measure pH in milk is using an HI98162 meter designed specifically for this application.

Measuring the pH of milk can provide a number of challenges. Milk products tend to have a high solids content that will coat the sensitive glass membrane surface and/or clog the reference junction.

The HI98162 professional pH meter is supplied with the FC1013 pH/temperature probe specifically designed for measuring pH in milk. The Polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) body is a food grade plastic that is resistant to most chemicals and solvents, including sodium hypochlorite. It has high abrasion resistance, mechanical strength and resistance to ultraviolet and nuclear radiation. PVDF is also resistant to fungal growth. The FC1013 is an ideal general-purpose pH electrode for milk products that connects to the HI98162 with a quick-connect, waterproof DIN connector, allowing for a secure, non-threaded attachment.

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