dispatches from codex alimentarius, geneva

Dairy permeate powder standard work approved by Codex

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

The decision was made at the Codex Alimentarius Commission's 38th meeting in Geneva
The decision was made at the Codex Alimentarius Commission's 38th meeting in Geneva

Related tags: Milk

An international standard on the identity, compositional quality and safety of powders made from dairy permeates has come a step closer.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) approved new work by the Committee on Milk and Milk Products (CCMMP) at its 38th meeting last week which has a timeline for possible adoption by July 2017.  

The standard will include essential composition and quality factors, food additives, and labelling and product modifications, e.g. partial demineralization.

The Commission agreed to establish an electronic working group (eWG), led by Denmark and co-chaired by New Zealand, and working in English, to prepare the proposed draft standard for circulation at step 3.

Proposed draft standard and comments at this step would be considered by a physical Working Group (pWG), led by Denmark and working in English, French and Spanish.

The standard will address a minimum limit for lactose (76%) expressed as anhydrous lactose, maximum levels for milk protein (e.g. less than 7%) milk fat and ash and maximum level of water to maintain safety and quality during storage.  

About dairy permeate powders

Dairy permeate powders are a group of milk products which have a high concentration of lactose and have been manufactured by drying permeates or similar products, from removing milk fat and milk protein from lactose-containing liquid raw materials such as milk (skimmed, partially skimmed and whole), cream, sweet buttermilk and/or whey.

Codex 6
Codex Alimentarius Commission

Depending on the raw material used, they are designated milk permeate powder, whey permeate powder or dairy permeate powder. 

Whey permeate is obtained by removing, by a mechanical process (e.g. membrane filtration) or by heat induced precipitation, milk proteins from whey.

Dairy permeate powders are used as ingredients in foods (e.g. dairy and bakery products, snacks, beverages, desserts, ice creams, confectionery), mainly for sweetening and flavour enhancing ability.

They are produced in at least three geographical regions exceeding 540,000 metric tonnes.

Production in North America of whey (470,335 metric tonnes) and milk (24,993) permeate powder led to exports of whey (256,428) and milk (10,497) in 2014, according to International Dairy Federation figures.

Increased sales have been driven by slightly lower prices than whey powder and lactose, partly because of sensory benefits, and more bulky and milky taste when added to other foods than can be obtained from lactose.

Dairy permeate powders were introduced in the 1970s and 1980s as membrane filtration technology evolved. However, it was not successful because the proportion of amorphous lactose was too high, and the emerging market was largely replaced by lactose powders.

Since then, powder drying technology has developed and it is possible to control the crystallization process, making “free flowing” powders. 

Growing production but no single definition

There is now a growing volume of production and a large number of food businesses involved in manufacture, trade and use of the products.

However no single, internationally-agreed definition or designation for labelling has been established, which can lead to unfair trading practices and consumers being misled.

The absence of a standard also creates problems for trade with countries that only permit imports of products for which a compositional standard exists (either in national legislation or as a Codex standard).

Codex 7 USA
USA delegate at the 38th Codex meeting

“Another issue in trade in dairy permeate powders relates to the fact that similar products are already in use as ingredients in animal feed. This situation has led to a reluctance in some markets to recognize food grade dairy permeate powders as appropriate and safe ingredients in food,” ​according to the project document.

“This has resulted in import restrictions in some countries and/or in incorrect marketing of these products as “lactose” or “whey powder”.

There is a wide range of dairy permeate powders of varying composition and quality currently traded in the international market.

“This diversity and the absence of a clearly defined international standard covering essential composition and quality parameters are not conducive to the further growth and development of international trade in these products​.”

Two close related standards are lactose defined as the fully concentrated isolate of lactose in the Standard for Sugars (CODEX STAN 212-1999), and whey powders defined as dried whey or dried acid whey covered by Standard for Whey Powders (CODEX STAN 289-1995). 

The European Whey Products Association has done preparatory work to agree on compositional requirements of whey permeate powder and The American Dairy Products Institute is also looking at the issue. 

Related topics: Regulation & Safety, Fresh Milk

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