Small firms 'don't use permeate'

MICHAEL BERRY
Last updated 09:10 23/04/2012

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A small Canterbury milk supplier says it would never cut its milk with "snot-like permeate" and that it makes for a less tasty, more unhealthy product.

Late last week Fonterra said it added permeate, a high-lactose milk byproduct of a process called ultrafiltration, back into its blue- topped milk to standardise protein levels in a usual industry practice.

The addition of permeate hit the headlines in Australia, with allegations that country's largest milk producer is using it to cut costs by 16 per cent in a price war.

Hornby milk supplier Klondyke Fresh agrees companies add permeate to stretch milk production.

Klondyke chief executive Graeme Brown said his company did not ultrafilter milk and Fonterra and Goodman Fielder were the only New Zealand milk companies that did. Goodman Fielder owns Meadow Fresh, and Cow and Gate, the cut-price milk offered by Nosh grocers in Auckland and Hamilton.

"Watering down milk with permeate may be legal, but it offers no benefit to the end consumer," Brown said.

"Permeate is high in lactose - the sugar component of milk - and its addition decreases the nutritional benefit of what should be a great, healthy source of protein."

Fonterra said ultrafiltering milk allowed the company to produce the wider range of milk types such Calci-Trim and Mega Milk, and to give nutritional consistency to its milk products.

Natural Dairy Products managing director Brent Thornton said his Leeston company's Al & Son Milk was not ultrafiltered.

Ultrafiltering split the milk solids from the water and allowed the producer to "harvest the good bits" and re-allocate them in different ratios to bottled milk, he said.

That allowed extra calcium for some milk to be sold at a premium at the nutritional expense of usual blue-top brands which were effectively watered down by permeate, which had almost no nutrients and was mostly water, he said. "They believe there's too much goodness in the milk to give to the customers."

Brown said people should know what was in their milk and producers should have to declare on their labels how it was processed and what was added.

Permeate does not have to be declared on Kiwi milk-bottle labels, because it is a milk product.

"What frustrated me was the notion that we all do it, that it's common practice," Brown said.

"We wanted to highlight to consumers and readers that this is not the case.

"Klondyke Fresh delivers the maximum protein from the cow, without adding unnecessary additives such as the snot-like permeate."

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Ultrafiltering milk would "stretch" a litre of milk by 25 per cent and give it a slightly longer shelf life, he said.

Klondyke and Natural Dairy leave milk protein levels to fluctuate depending on how it comes from the farm, with a minimum of 3 per cent protein rather than producing milk with a standardised amount year round.

Klondyke, Natural Dairy and Goodman Fielder buy their milk from Fonterra under the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act which forces the milk giant to sell some milk to other suppliers to create competition.

A Goodman Fielder spokesman said it strictly adhered to the "extensive and extremely tight" milk regulations governed by the Food Standards Australia New Zealand code.

- The Press

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