In the wake of new legislation permitting the use of goats' milk protein in the manufacture of infant and follow-on formula, the head of the British Specialist Nutrition Association (BNSA) has questioned whether British goats can produce enough milk to "justify turning a dryer on."
Last week, the UK Department of Health (DOH) announced that following a consultation period it has amended the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula (England) Regulations 2007 to authorize “for the first time” the use of goats’ milk protein in the manufacture of infant formula and follow-on formula.
Previously, the only protein sources permitted for use in infant formula and follow-on formula in the UK is that from cows’ milk and soya.
Speaking with DairyReporter.com, BSNA director general, Roger Clarke said that given the size of the British goat milk industry, manufacturing a goat milk-based infant or follow-on formula may not be "practical."
“From a commercial point of view, I don’t know where they would start,” said Clarke. “I don’t even know if they would have the volumes. It’s just not practical.”
According to the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) there are around 30,000 milk producing goats in England and Wales.
Each lactating goat produces an average of 1,000 litres of milk a year. This means theoretically that British goats produce around 30m litres of milk per annum - small change when compared to the 13.2bn litres of cows’ milk produced each year in the UK.
“Considering the number of goat herds in the country, unless they form a cooperative, I can’t see them producing enough milk to justify turning a dryer on. That’s my practical opinion, not the opinion of the BSNA.”
“It might be a different picture in Europe as a whole. But I doubt it,” Clarke added.
The introduction of infant and follow-on formula products based on goats’ milk protein will provide “greater choice for parents and carers who wish to use an alternative to formulas based on cows’ milk or soya,” said the DOH in an explanatory memorandum.
It added that at least one manufacturer intends to launch a goats’ milk-based formula in the UK.
Clarke, whose organisation represents the likes of Danone Nutrition, Nestlé Nutrition, Mead Johnson Nutrition, and Abbott Nutrition, was unable to shed light on the identity of this manufacturer.
“It is likely to be one of our members, as we represent almost all the infant formula manufacturers in the UK,” said Clarke.
“But which company it is, I don’t know.”
Labeling and marketing concerns
The amendment, which also lowers the minimum protein levels permitted in follow-on formula manufactured from protein hyrdrolysates, brings British legislation in line European Commission (EC) Directive 2013/46/EU.
No objections were received to the draft amendment, but eight responses, from industry stakeholders including Baby Milk Action, the BSNA, and the Royal College of Midwives, were received during the consultation period.
Responses focused on “the importance that any new goats’ milk-based formula milk are labelled and marketed in accordance with the legislation” and “concerns that parents and carers might incorrectly believe that goats’ milk-based formula milk are suitable for infant diagnosed with an allergy to cows’ milk protein.”
The amended regulation, which applies just to England, is applicable from 28 February 2014. From this date, manufacturers can formulate their products in-line with the revised standards.
Parallel legislation is being made in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.