Speaking from the UK's House of Commons in London, Member of Parliament (MP) David Curry said the entire industry continued to face crises at both a consumer and farmer level regarding issues of nutrition and supply. Dealing with these areas are therefore likely to remain key areas for future development, particularly in light of dairy farmer concerns across Europe over cost sustainability, he said. Historical precedent As an ancient institution, the UK's House of Commons, like the dairy industry itself, proudly proclaims at its visitor centre to have survived past a number of defining moments in history from the country's abolition of slavery in 1833 up to Spice Girl-fever in 1995. However, Curry told DairyReporter.com that if the industry is to survive and thrive in the future, it must ensure it is providing value for money to the farmer at one end of the food chain, and to the consumer at the other "If you look at the type of products we have on the market now from ten years ago, not least in probiotic yoghurts and other functional products, this is an important area of focus for the industry," he said at the second annual Dairy UK reception. "The focus on added value will be vital in ensuring cost stability for everyone in the industry." Curry stressed that as well as ensuring a sustainable milk supply, concerns over nutrition within dairy products provide another huge challenge for suppliers and manufacturers, particularly in regards to nutrient profiling. Nutrient profiling is defined as the science by which foods are rated according to their nutritional composition. Much attention has been given to the term in the last couple of years, partly since the new European nutrition and health claims regulations require that only foods with favourable nutrient profiles should be allowed to make claims. The industry has previously stressed concerns at the inclusion of some milk, yoghurts and cheese goods under the definition of 'junk food' under the system due to their fat content, despite containing a number of proteins and nutrients required in a balanced diet. In light of these concerns, Curry added that Dairy UK was therefore launching its 'Proud of Dairy' campaign at the event. The scheme, which will become the mast-head for the group itself is intended to reflect the importance of the industry to the country's economic, environmental and dietary stability. "The dairy industry can be traced back to the beginning of European civilisation itself from when people began to graze and farm livestock as opposed to simply eating it," he said. "We should be proud of how the industry had developed." Outside of being simply a European focus, Curry claimed the emergence of major European dairy processors was also helping national development. Difficulties There have been difficulties in the battle, though, towards supply sustainability and nutrition promotion. Back in June, Farmers' groups in Germany, Belgium and Netherlands all became involved in protests, ranging from spilling milk to boycotting production, to a call for a higher basic pay rate for their products. The European Milk Board (EMB) said that the united front shown by milk producers across the bloc had succeeded in ensuring they would have a greater say in the pricing of their products. The industry remains divided over how best to ensure supply sustainability though between ensuring all members can remain profitable, while overhauling production towards the free-market model desired as part of EU common agricultural policy (CAP) reform. Similarly in terms of health, research continues on a variety of areas like naturally occurring trans fatty acids in dairy and meat and their long-term impacts on health. Dairy UK itself has moved to promote the products as a generally beneficial part of diet for a variety of areas including heart and dental health. Health experts While the general health messages emanating from the dairy industry have been supported by health organisations, dietitians continue to stress that a balanced diet and moderate consumption was the best option to ensure health. This was the message from national health charity The British Heart Foundation, which stressed that no one type of food or beverage product alone could ensure a healthy diet.
The Dairy Industry last year outlined a 'huge fight' to promote the potential nutrition and lifestyle benefits of its products and must continue the battle in the year ahead, according to the chairman of Dairy UK.