Milk's hidden additives
April 16, 2012, 6:18 pm Today Tonight
A special report reveals the widespread industry practice of adding additives to milk, making it cheaper to produce while changing its texture.
Most of us drink it every single day, but it appears that milk isn't as natural as you might think.
What dairy producers are putting in your milk - and there's a lot of it - will shock you. If you think the milk you drink is pure and straight from the cow, it's time to think again.
Milk is being tampered with, and waste products are being added to it. Now for the first time, an industry whistleblower has come forward to spill the beans.
The whistleblower still works in the dairy industry, having spent years working in milk processing, and fears repercussions if his voice is heard or his identity revealed.
“I've seen it, I was part of it, and it's wrong,” the whistleblower said. “It's about time the public knew what the companies are up to. It's a waste product - it used to be tipped down the drain, then companies saw they could use it to save money. It's a tightly held secret they don't want the public to know about. Companies know it would be detrimental to their sales if people found out.”
What the major companies are doing is that after milking, solids that are separated out, pasteurized, homogenized, reduced, and refined are then mixed back. The big secret that's kept from the public is they also mix in a lot of the cheap, filler additive consisting mainly of lactose. The left-overs of milk production called permeate.
Peter Nathan runs the A2 milk company, which produces milk from specially bred Guernsey and Jersey cows. A2 does not contain a protein found in normal milks, called A1 beta casein protein, which is allegedly linked to a range of illnesses, including heart disease and allergies. And A2, which is more expensive than normal milks, does not have permeate added.
”It's got an additive that most consumers don't know they've got in their milk, and it doesn't taste the way milk should taste,” A2 Milk CEO Peter Nathan said.
Permeate's up to twenty per cent of most milks, including full cream, skim, low fat, and the supermarkets’ private labels.
“The public have a right to know about this ingredient because they're not told about it,” Nathan said.
Permeate is not required to be disclosed on the label, so shoppers have no way of knowing if it's there and how much of it is present.
The amount companies add varies, depending on the amount of protein present in cow's milk through the seasons.
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So why do companies add permeate?
“You can see that in January 7 0.98 per cent was added in, then later in the year, more, 15 per cent, then 13.29, and drops to eleven then nine. Why wouldn't they use permeate, (when they’re saving $25 million a year? It's a no-brainer,” the whistleblower said.
Normal milk from the farmer is around 50 cents a litre, while permeate's about fifteen cents - 35 cents a litre cheaper. A large milk processing company produces around 1.64 million litres of milk a day, 600 million litres a year. Substituting twelve per cent of that milk with permeate, saves $69,000 a day, or $25 million a year.
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“It's no secret that the industry is caught in a price war at the moment, and the large milk processers are caught. They need to reduce costs, so what they do is they add in permeate, and it's no secret in the industry that these times we believe more permeate is being added,” Nathan said.
“A2 is less processed than the big brands from the big manufacturers in Australia. A2 is fresh from the cow, it's pasteurized to kill the bad bacteria, homogenized to spread the fat around. Other manufacturers could produce milk without permeate if they wanted to, however they are focused on costs - we are focused on quality. When they drink A2 they are getting real milk, not a modified version of milk,” he said.
”Thousands of consumers have told us they do discern a significant difference between A2 and other milks that don't contain permeate and brands that do.”
Ingrid Just from Choice says “the reports into milk that we at Choice have done over the years have shown that there is very little nutritional difference between milk that probably has permeate and milk that doesn't.”
Companies told us they use permeate to make different dairy products, and to maintain a consistent taste in milk through the year, from different pastures. Just stresses permeates are not harmful for health. and companies must adhere to a nutritional formula, but they can add as much permeate as they can get away with legally.
“Milk is essentially quite standardised, especially when it comes to minimum fat levels, and if it's skim milk for example or low fat milk, there are particular percentages that the milks have to address,” Just said.
Permeate is not the only issue under the microscope for normal milk.
A study is being conducted on why many people can't drink milk. Lactose intolerance accounts for 25 per cent to 30 per cent of milk intolerance, but Curtin University is testing people to compare how they react to normal milk - which has A1 beta casein protein, and A2 - which doesn't.
“People who are concerned about digestion are often attracted to A2 milk,” Nathan said.
The results of that study will be disclosed mid-year, but meanwhile permeate remains shrouded in secret.
“If a milk doesn't have permeate in it, the supermarkets don't want them to declare it on the label, as it shows up the other companies that do put it in,” the whistleblower concluded.
Milk companies which do not include permeate in their milk:
- A2 Milk - www.a2milk.com.au
- Ashgrove Farm Fresh - www.ashgrovecheese.com.au
- Aussie Farmers Direct - www.aussiefarmers.com.au
- Bannister Downs Farm - www.bannisterdowns.com.au
- Country Valley - www.countryvalley.com.au
- Maleny Dairies - www.malenydairies.com
- Norco - www.norco.com.au
- Peel Valley Dairy - www.mooandmore.com.au
- ProCal - www.procal.com.au
- Udder Farm - www.facebook.com/pages/Udder-Farm-Milk-Cream-Cheese