Your Dairy Milk Has Turned into What?


Strawberry milk is not milk? Dairy farmers expressed concern at a recent press conference that some commercial dairy ingredient labeling is misleading, for example, labeled to contain milk, but in fact containing a flavored milk or extended shelf life milk. The Health and Welfare Ministry of the Food and Drug Administration stated on July 1 that to safeguard the interests of the public, commercial milk, extended shelf life milk, flavored milk, and other products shall be clearly marked, and that milk powder content should be marked as a percentage. The penalty for false labels will be up to four million yuan.

Milk products labeled “dairy drinks” will be required to have a milk content of at least 50%. The head of the Animal Science and Technology Department at National Taiwan University stated that the difference between extended shelf life milk flavor and nutritional value is insignificant, and that the reason extended shelf life milk must be labeled is to avoid the confusion of extended shelf life milk with regular milk. The requirements also state that the sterilization ingredients used in extended shelf life milk must be clearly labeled.

Labels like “enhanced milk” and other words are commonly used on commercially available milk. Chen Mingru points out that the process of producing low-fat, skim milk may cause losses of nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, and others, leading milk producers to add extra calcium, vitamins, and nutrients back to the milk, thus the label “enhanced.” Following July 1, added ingredients will have advanced specification requirements to ensure that the nutrient content of processed milk resembles the original nutrient composition of raw milk. Children’s malted milk drinks and chocolate milk are also required to have a minimum dairy content of 50% in order to be labeled as “flavored milk” or “milk drinks.”

Imported dairy products, such as the popular Korean banana milk, will also need to comply with the new national regulations in order to be sold in Taiwan. Products with milk content below the minimum, in which the milk content has been partially replaced with other additives such as maltodextrin, will be required to be labeled as “modified milk,” with the percentage of dairy content and additives clearly started on the packaging.

Peter Chan, Professor of Food Science and Dean of College of Human Ecology at Fu Jen Catholic University, notes that dairy products are pasteurized using two sterilization methods: high temperature sterilization, in which the milk is heated to 75 degrees Celsius for 15 seconds; and ultra-high temperature sterilization, in which the milk is heated to 130 degrees Celsius for one second. Milk undergoes the pasteurization process in order to remove disease-causing pathogens and spoilage bacteria. Chan notes that despite pasteurization, it is important the importance of always keeping milk refrigerated and not left at room temperature for longer than 30 minutes.

Chan cautioned that due to the heat of the summer, any beverages containing dairy, such as pearl milk tea, should be consumed within 30 minutes of purchase to avoid allowing time for bacteria to grow. Chan also noted that though preservation sterilization methods may vary, most extended shelf-life milk can be stored unopened for four to six months, but once opened should be refrigerated.

Extended shelf life milk is about half the price of milk, but many people think that though the price is lower, the nutrition content is also lower in extended shelf life milk compared with milk. Chenming Ru, of the Department of Animal Science and Technology at National Taiwan University, explained that the high temperature used in sterilization of extended shelf life milk only eliminates harmful bacteria, and does not otherwise damage the nutrient content of the milk. Because extended shelf life milk has been sterilized at a high temperature for a longer period of time, all of the potentially harmful bacteria have been wiped out, making it possible to store extended shelf life milk at room temperature for a long period of time. Chen Mingru points out that because the sterilization time for regular milk is short, there is just a one percent difference in the nutrient content of extended shelf life milk. Many people believe that because of its resistance to spoilage, extended shelf life milk must contain preservatives or additives, but extended shelf life milk does not rely on chemical additives. The extended shelf life is due to the high-temperature sterilization and the use of aseptic packaging.