What are modified milk ingredients?
If you care for a real exercise in label reading, just take a peek at a standard supermarket ice cream. You would think that the list of ingredients should be pretty short. After all, traditional ice cream is made by mixing together cream, milk, egg yolk and sugar, blending in some vanilla, fruit or chocolate flavouring and freezing the concoction. That’s the stuff that makes or mouths drool and arteries panic. But chances are that you won’t see any cream or milk on the label of many a commercial ice cream. What you will see is “modified milk ingredients.” What on earth are these? Milk of course is quite a complex mixture of substances. It is mostly water in which the milk sugar lactose is dissolved, and goblets of fat and proteins, the so-called caseins, are suspended. Milk has a rather limited shelf life, but its components, if separated, can last longer and can be used in a variety of ways. This has given rise to a range of milk-processing industries. If the water is evaporated, we end up with dried whole milk. Then there is skim milk, partially skim milk, whey proteins, caseins, butter-oil, anhydrous butter-oil, skim milk powder. Some of these can be modified to produce cultured milk products or milk protein concentrates. The driving force here is economy. By using specific modified milk ingredients, manufacturers can make cheese or ice cream products more cheaply and with longer shelf life. Taste usually suffers.
While the use of these modified milk products may be unappealing, there is no health issue here. All of the components were originally present in milk. In some cases one can even argue for improved health benefits, as in the use of skim milk powder to replace full fat milk. While there is no health concern, there is a political question. The amount of fluid milk that can be imported into Canada without a tariff is limited. But modified milk ingredients fall under different regulations. It is cheaper for manufacturers to make dairy products with imported modified ingredients than with Canadian milk.