Arla Foods and Fonterra have teamed up with Danish analytical solutions provider Foss to develop a screening method to determine whether milk has been tampered with for financial gain.
The ‘fingerprint’-based screening technique will be tested in practice at Mengniu Dairy Company processing facilities in China, and will be one of the first tasks handed to the new Beijing-based China-Denmark Milk Technology Cooperation Centre.
The centre, which was opened earlier today by the Chinese Minister of Agriculture and his Danish counterpart, was established with the aim of promoting dairy industry co-operation between the countries and boosting Chinese milk production standards to a European level.
It is a product of Arla’s June 2012 agreement with COFCO Corporation to become an indirect shareholder of Mengniu Dairy Company.
The screening method will be used in countries such as China, where confidence in the quality and safety of domestically-produced dairy products is low.
Restore consumer confidence
According to Arla’s senior vice president with responsibility for China, Frede Juulsen, this method could help to restore consumer confidence in an industry that has been badly impacted by a series of safety scandals.
In 2008, six babies and around 300,000 people were sickened in China after consuming melamine-tainted powdered infant formula.
“If this method had been available to Chinese dairies in 2008, they might have discovered that the milk had been tampered with, and avoided the earlier problems with food safety. As the new screening method is reliable, fast and cheap, it is interesting for all dairies in China,” said Juulsen.
“Once we have tested it, the rest of the dairy industry can also implement it, so that consumer confidence can be restored – for the benefit of the entire industry.”
The method is based on raw milk’s own unique ‘fingerprint’, which is registered by passing infra-red though the sample. The sample’s ‘fingerprint’ is then compared with the ‘fingerprint’ of normal milk.
Any deviations may indicate one of many known substances that can be added to milk to tamper with the protein content.Currently unknown substances or the addition of water will also show up in the analysis.
According to Arla, the method is “unique.”
Specific substance analysis
“If there is anything abnormal about the milk, it can be tested further in 18 existing analyses that can each reveal a specific substance. These analyses require more resources, however. So the advantage of the new method is that milk does not have to be analysed unless the initial screening indicates a deviation,” said Arla technology manager for China, Niels Juul Mortensen.
Currently, all raw milk is tested for melamine at Mengniu processing plants.
Once the new method has been introduced, only milk that deviates from the normal milk ‘fingerprint’ will be tested for melamine and other substances.
(*Register here for free access to the first ever online event devoted to Operational Efficiency in food and beverage processing on November 29, organized by our sister site FoodProductionDaily.com and William Reed Business Media.)