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18-03-2011

Milk industry finds the perfect profile for healthy milk

Infrared technology aids health initiatives with new rapid way to monitor saturated fat content in milk

Infrared analysis technology is helping to control milk supplies for levels of saturated and unsaturated fats.

A paper just published in the latest edition of The Bulletin of the International Dairy Federation explains how analysis instruments using infrared technology for rapid, routine testing of milk can reveal the main groups of fatty acids in a milk sample.

The instruments use Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) technology to give a profile of saturated and unsaturated fats in samples taken from dairy farms. The fat profile test can be performed simultaneously with existing routine tests for more traditional milk quality parameters such as protein and general fat content.

Dairy farmers whose milk does not match the ideal profile can be alerted so that they can take action by adjusting the feed for their cows, for example, feeding based on more traditional grass grazing and less corn has been found to reduce levels of saturated fats.

In the Netherlands, around 400 farmers have been involved in a scheme to provide milk with a specific fatty acid profile for several years. The milk is subsequently used in a special range of products which the manufacturer can then promote as containing higher levels of healthier fatty acids.

While fat is an essential part of the diet, too much saturated fat can lead to high levels of harmful cholesterol in the blood which, in turn, increases the risk of coronary heart disease.

Dairy products are an obvious target for ongoing health campaigns due to a high content of saturated fat, for instance, in the UK, dairy products contribute 30 – 40% of saturated fat consumption. Any way to reduce this level can therefore have a significant impact on health over time.

Further reading

An article on dairy instrustry initiatives to achieve an ideal balance of saturated and unsaturated fats in milk can be found in the FOSS, In Focus magazine, no2, 2010, page 10 (Finding the balance with saturated fats).

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