FDA should demand culture, say yoghurt makers

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Milk

American dairy farmers who supply ingredients for yoghurt have been
angered by a petition seeking a change in the definition of the
product. They call it a "cynical attempt" to rob yoghurt of
raw ingredients.

American dairy farmers claim that a petition aimed at changing yoghurt's definition is a cynical attempt to decrease the amount of milk and pure ingredients used in the product.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is being asked by the US the National Yoghurt Association to draw up new rules as to what a yoghurt can contain in order to be defined as such, a move whcih has been fiercely criticised by dairy producers.

The current ingredients required for a product to be called yoghurt in the US are cream, milk, partially skimmed milk or skimmed milk.

But some dairy farmers are worried that the new standards would allow the use of imported milk protein concentrate (MPC) as an optional ingredient. MPC is a dried, filtered, low-cost milk protein used in a variety of products produced mainly in the European Union, New Zealand and Australia.

"The overall concern is that these proposed changes appear to be an attempt to let processors use cheaper ingredients,"​ said Robert Byrne, vice president of regulatory affairs for the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), a trade association that represents the nation's dairy co-operatives.

Imports of milk protein concentrate have increased in the US in recent years. In the mid 1990s, 50 million pounds of protein concentrate was imported, but figures released for 2002 show that this figure rose to 200 million pounds. The NMPF estimates that imports of MPC have reduced US milk prices by an average of 8.6 per cent in recent years.

Family Farm Defenders, anothergroup opposed to the changes sought in the petition, said that imported concentrated milk should not even be classified as a dairy prioduct, calling for an end to the use of such "minimal"​ ingredients in yoghurts.

However, Robert Garfield, senior vice president at the National Yoghurt Association, said he was baffled by the opposition to the petition. He said the the petition had asked for changes that would help dairy farmers, and that the association was more concerned with issues such as ensuring a minimal milk level in yoghurt and keeping out heat-treated yoghurts, which he argues would encourage cheaper imports because they have a longer shelf life.

He said that the dairy farmers had wrongly "chosen to vent their anger over yoghurt; milk protein concentrate is not at all a player in yoghurt production."

In any case, the FDA claims that changing the yoghurt standard is not on the top of its list of priorities. The FDA has 180 standards for various food stuffs that it does plan to look at, these, include those for cheese and ice cream which have generated equally controversial petitions that raise many of the same questions.

Related topics: Ingredients, Yogurt and Desserts

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