Dairy firms unite to fight milk critics

By Chris Mercer

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Dairy Milk Mdc

Top dairy firms around the world, backed by Britain's biggest
supermarket, will work together to promote the health qualities of
milk as concerns rise over a growing anti-dairy league.

A new Global Dairy Forum, established at the recent International Dairy Federation summit, aims to co-ordinate research and promotions to improve dairy products' image.

The alliance, which includes top dairy firms such as Arla Foods, Campina, Fonterra and Dairy Farmers of America, marks an escalation in the war on anti-dairy campaigners.

Dairy products and especially milk, once the embodiment of a healthy upbringing, have come under threat from several reports and high-profile figures linking them to disorders and diseases.

Heather Mills, the estranged wife of Sir Paul McCartney, said earlier this year that cutting out dairy helped her to recover from a post-operation infection.

The UK has become a central battle ground in the dairy dispute, and it is Kevin Bellamy, chief executive of the country's Milk Development Council (MDC), who will lead the Global Dairy Platform.

The MDC has already gained credit for setting up around 1,000 milk bars in schools.

"There is already plenty of activity, but in isolated campaigns. Providing a platform to support all activity across the world will give organisations like the MDC much better access to the information it needs to communicate with consumers,"​ Bellamy said.

Dairy firms can take heart that Tesco, the UK's largest supermarket, has agreed to throw its weight behind the MDC to educate British consumers about the health benefits of milk.

More than 90 per cent of UK consumers do not know the fat content of milk, and half of those asked over-estimated fat content by more than six times, according to recent consumer research by the MDC.

"By getting the right information out there, we can dispel these misconceptions and alert a new generation of drinkers to milk's unique health properties,"​ said Alain Guilpain, senior dairy buyer for Tesco.

Milk consumption had been falling consistently for 40 years in the UK, until new branded products and strong demand from coffeehouses halted the slide in 2005.

Consumption of whole milk has dropped 75 per cent in 20 years is now roughly 0.5 litres per week, half that of semi-skimmed milk. Dairy industry officials recently criticised the UK government for banning whole milk in schools, effectively labelling it as junk food.

Tesco will back a new MDC campaign aimed at women by placing signs and adverts throughout stores, as well as publishing recipe cards and mailing its many Tesco Clubcard holders.

There are concerns in the UK that young women in particular are not getting enough calcium in their diets. Dairy is a main source of calcium, which scientists believe can help people avoid osteoporosis, or brittle bone disease.

A survey last year found that between 70 and 80 per cent of British children aged 11-18 years were consuming less than the recommended daily intake of calcium.

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