Leche Pascual, the Spanish dairy product producer, looks set for conflict once again with its main rivals after participating in a study designed to compare the benefits of pasteurised and natural yoghurts.
Pascual has faced a torrent of criticism over its decision to call its pasteurized, shelf stable dairy desserts by the name 'yoghurt', which other companies, led by French giant Danone, claim should refer only to the chilled product containing live bacteria.
Now researchers from the Ramon y Cajal hospital in Spain have drawn up a report comparing and contrasting the health benefits of both live and pasteurised yoghurt. According to a report in the Spanish newspaper Cinco Dias, Leche Pascual was involved in the research, although the exact nature of its collaboration with researchers was not revealed.
The paper suggests that the research was carried out as a response to the recent declaration by Codex Alimentarius Commission that pasteurised dairy desserts could not be classified as yoghurts, despite Leche Pascual's insistence.
The Commission said that the heat treatment involved in the pasteurisation process meant that there were no live bacteria in such products, and that fermentation - a key part of the yoghurt manufacturing process - was unable to take place.
While the Codex Commission's statement will not affect Leche Pascaul's right to market its products as yoghurts in the home market - the Spanish authorities approved the use of the term in 2002, much to the disgust of other manufacturers - it will prevent it from exporting them to other countries.
Hence the need for the research, according to Pascual. The aim of the report was to see how well the bacteria from live yoghurts survived in the intestinal tract, and to see whether live or pasteurised yoghurts had a more beneficial effect on humans. The full report will be published in September.
Spain is not the only country to allow pasteurised products to be marketed as yoghurts - the US, UK and Germany are among several others.
But with the growing number of studies showing that 'friendly' bacteria such as those found in yoghurts are indeed beneficial to health, Leche Pascual's only hope lies in showing that these same bacteria can be found in its product - something which would clearly contradict the Codex position.