Milk isn’t a single product. In fact, every mammal produces some sort of milk to feed their infants on before they can eat solid food. In addition to providing a source of sustenance, it also provides the child with antibodies from the mother to give their immune system a boost. But when a young mammal suckles on some fresh milk, are they swallowing a fire hazard.
All types of milk, when in liquid form, are not flammable. They will not ignite, mostly due to high water content. However, dry, powdered milk can catch fire easily, and in some cases, even explode.
Overall, milk is not much of a fire hazard, but when it comes to powder milk products, things change. This is what you need to know about milk and fire.
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Also read: What Makes Something Flammable?
Table of Contents
- What Is Milk?
- What Makes A Liquid Flammable?
- What About Milk Powder?
What Is Milk?
As human beings are mammals, our females produce milk after the birth of our children, and they will live on that milk for the first few months (and sometimes longer) of their lives.
However, the milk that exists in most of our lives on a day-to-day basis is not human milk but cow’s milk (and in some societies, this may be substituted for sheep or goat’s milk).
Human beings are unusual in that over the course of their evolution, they have adapted to drinking the milk of other species and thriving on it.
Most species lose the ability to drink milk after they are weaned and become lactose intolerant.
Globally, there are nearly 1 billion tons of dairy milk produced each year for human consumption.
Oddly, India is the world’s premier milk-producing country, and nearly 1 in 4 pints of milk hail from the subcontinent.
Much of this milk is converted into skimmed milk powder, though it is also used to produce some other milk products in much smaller quantities.
It’s worth noting though that India is not the leading exporter of milk and milk products that honor falls to Germany, the Netherlands, and New Zealand in near equal proportions.
Both China and Russia used to be huge importers of milk but in 2016, they ceased importing milk as they had become self-sufficient in their production.
It is estimated that over 6 billion people consume milk and dairy products around the world and almost 1 billion people live in households directly related to dairy farming.
Milk is a big business for people and it’s present in nearly all of our lives.
What Makes A Liquid Flammable?
By definition, only liquid can be flammable, solids can be combustible rather than flammable.
However, a liquid can only be flammable if it burns in oxygen at a temperature of 199.4 degrees Fahrenheit or 93 degrees Celsius.
Is Milk Flammable?
Milk is a liquid, but it is not a flammable liquid.
While some of the component parts of milk, such as fat, can burn, the overall volume of milk is mainly water.
Water doesn’t burn and, in fact, it is used to extinguish many different types of fire.
The ratio of water to other materials means that any attempt to light any of the component parts of milk alight will fail as the water will immediately extinguish that fire.
Is Cream Flammable?
The cream is the fatty layer that separates to the top of a bottle of full-fat milk (something that in the days of milk in cartons is harder to witness than it once was).
While cream has a much higher ratio of fat to water than ordinary milk does, it still has too much water to burn easily.
So, cream is not flammable.
Can You Light Whipped Cream On Fire?
Some people assume that whipped cream is going to be flammable because it comes in an aerosol-like container but, in fact, the cream is not flammable for the same reasons that cream skimmed from the top of the milk is not flammable.
We’ve heard that some people have tried to add alcohol to whipped cream to try and create a spectacular dessert with a flame on top.
We don’t recommend that you try that.
The alcohol would need to be very high proof and that would mean it would burn with an invisible flame.
And if you did manage to get it to burn the cream, the cream would be ruined and taste pretty awful.
If you burn alcohol on a dessert, let the fire go out, and then add the cream.
What Happens If You Put Fire On Whipped Cream?
If you used fire on whipped cream, you would burn some of the fat through the water content would keep extinguishing the fire, so the whipped cream would not burn away.
This would ruin the taste of your whipped cream and it’s best not to use naked flames on cream or milk products.
What About Milk Powder?
Milk powder is an exception to the flammability rule.
Milk powder contains no water and because it’s a powder, it has a very high surface area to volume ratio, which makes it much easier to set a substance alight.
It only takes a spark or a naked flame to set milk powder in the air alight and it is a self-sustaining reaction which means it will burn until you run out of powder.
Take a look here at what can happen:
Can Milk Be Explosive?
Milk powder, when burned, can be so explosive that it becomes deadly and destroys property.
ABC Australia ran a story in 2012 of a milk powder factory explosion that caused $300,000 AUD of damage.
Fortunately, there was no one hurt when the accident took place.
Ordinary milk is not explosive because it doesn’t burn.
But it is possible for milk bottles and cartons to explode.
In a fire, it’s possible for these containers to get hot without burning.
The milk inside the container expands when this happens and if it expands enough, it will shatter the container.
It’s also possible for these containers to explode if the milk inside them rots.
In this case, the action of decay produces waste gasses which raise the pressure inside the container.
Most of the time, this will lead to a “blown” appearance of the packet, but it is possible for the gas to build up enough to make the packaging explode.
Is Powdered Milk Real Milk?
Yes, powdered milk is the same as real milk.
It’s produced by evaporating all the water from the milk and reducing it to its constituent parts.
However, it is possible for the cholesterol in whole milk powder to get burned (oxidized) during the production process which makes for a small change in the overall nutrition profile.
Is Dry Milk The Same As Powdered Milk?
Yes, dry milk is simply another name for powdered milk and there’s no difference between the two products at all.
Is Powdered Milk The Same As Condensed Milk?
No, powdered milk is not the same as condensed milk and condensed milk cannot be reduced to a powdered form due to the high sugar and fat content.
Powdered milk has fewer calories than condensed milk.
Is Powdered Milk Healthy?
Because powdered milk is the same as real milk, there’s no official nutritional difference between the two, though we’d note that reconstituted powdered milk doesn’t taste as pleasant as milk and it can help to mix it with some real milk or UHT milk to balance out the taste.
If, however, the cholesterol was oxidized in whole milk powder, it is possible that this isn’t healthy for you, and it might damage your blood vessels and in the long-term, it could cause heart disease.
We would note that there is no solid research demonstrating that this risk is significant and it is probably not a massive risk unless you consume large amounts of milk powder.
Why Is Powdered Milk Expensive?
Powdered milk isn’t expensive.
It might seem expensive when you take a pound of powdered milk and compare it to a pound of cow’s milk but that’s not an equivalent comparison.
A pound of powdered milk will make gallons of reconstituted milk.
If you compare a gallon of reconstituted milk’s cost with that of a gallon of actual milk, the powdered milk works out quite a bit cheaper.