Organic milk profits on health claims

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Organic milk Milk Nutrition

Sales of organic milk within the UK are up by about 11
per cent to 200m litres a year, boosted by studies linking the
product with a number of health benefits, a leading dairy
processor claims.

The UK organic milk market is growing year-on-year at a rate 11.5 per cent, said Yeo Valley Organic, pointing to figures from AC Nielsen Scantrack.

The findings highlight the growing potential for processors using organically sourced ingredients in their products.

The value of the UK organic milk market alone has reached £150m (€212.7m) after recent studies linked organic dairy produce to reduced levels of allergens like eczema in young children, said the company.

Yeo Valley marketing director Ben Cull claims the organic milk market has increased 16 per cent in the last 12 months since November 2006, and this level of growth is expected to continue.

"There are strong ethical and environmental benefits in favour of organic milk that appeal to a growing number of consumers, but each time there's new research showing nutritional benefits, sales take a further leap forward," he stated.

The market for private label organic milk in particular had been strong during the last 12 months, up 147 per cent on a year-on-year basis, the company added.

The claims come on the back of a number of studies on the reported health benefits of organic dairy products over the conventional kind.

The group claims that a recent £12m (€17m) EU study, conducted over four years, found that organic milk contained 90 per cent more antioxidants than non-organic milk.

Scientists have previously linked antioxidants to a reduced risk of contracting breast cancer and heart disease.

The findings add to the debate between conventional and organic products that has raged with claims and counter-claims from both sides of the argument.

A study published by the British Journal of Nutrition in April, reports that obtaining at least 90 per cent of dairy and meat products from organic sources increases levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).

"We show here that the levels of both rumenic acid and trans-vaccenic acid (TVA) in human breast milk were higher in the case of mothers following a diet that contained organic dairy and meat products, in comparison with mothers consuming a conventional diet," wrote lead author Lukas Rist from Paracelsus Hospital Richterswil in Switzerland.

"In view of the accumulating evidence pointing towards various positive effects of CLA on human health, in particular at a very young age, the present results are highly interesting," he added.

The research was performed in collaboration with scientists from the University of Hamburg, Maastricht University, TNO Nutrition and Food Research, Louis Bolk Institute (Driebergen), Zurich University Hospital.

"These findings provide scientific support for common sense, by showing that organic foods are healthier," said Rist.

"The study shows that breastfeeding mothers can influence the supply and quality of fatty acids for their infants, by eating a diet with organic dairy," he added.

According to a study published recently in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, the world market for certified organic foods was estimated at $23-25bn (€17.3-18.8bn) in 2003 with annual growth of about 19 per cent.

Rist and co-workers took breast milk samples from 312 breastfeeding mothers taking par in the KOALA Birth Cohort Study.

Dietary intakes of organic and conventionally produced foods were assessed using a 160-item food frequency questionnaire (FFQ).

Organic Monitor estimates that at the European level, organic drinking milk sales were about 1.1 billion litres.

The UK has the largest market for organic drinking milk after Germany.

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