Naturo Pty Ltd has previously made headlines in the food industry with its non-thermal processing technology that increases fresh milk’s shelf life to 60 days. Now, the technology has also been scientifically proven to make fresh milk more digestible, potentially paving the way for consumers who experience adverse reactions to cow’s milk to enjoy the beverage once again. The company says 68% of the global population has sensitivity to milk, and one in six Australians opt to exclude milk from their diets altogether.
The key to why Haelen-treated milk is more digestible lies in the way the method further breaks down whey proteins in milk. “The large majority of consumers who react adversely to dairy milk typically just have trouble digesting the whey proteins present in the milk,” Naturo founder and CEO Jeff Hastings told DairyReporter. “This is where Haelen milk benefits, because of the way it breaks down - or hydrolyses - these proteins. The nutrients are also made more accessible to the body due to the faster and more complete digestion in the stomach.”
The hydrolysis happens naturally during the process, he explained, with nothing added to or removed from the milk. Unlike pasteurization or UHT, Haelen doesn’t rely on thermal processing, ‘so more nutrients are naturally retained or less de-natured in the Haelen process,’ Hastings said. The method is the only known method that kills Bacillus cereus, a common pathogen in milk.
The research to confirm the digestibility traits was prompted by earlier consumer trials, which showed that two-thirds of trial participants who normally experienced an adverse reaction to cow’s milk found that Haelen processed milk eliminated or reduced this reaction. In the scientific tests, the Haelen-treated milk was shown to be twice as digestible as any other processed cow’s milk available in the Australian market.
“The reason for this was independently validated over multiple trials by Australia’s leading scientific research organization through simulated gastric digestion, HPLC and electrophoresis analysis of the whey proteins in the milk,” Hastings told us.
But it’s not good news for consumers who are allergic to dairy: “If you are allergic to dairy milk or medically-diagnosed as lactose intolerant, Haelen milk will not help you,” was Hastings’ verdict.
So who stands to benefit from Haelen milk’s digestibility? “Apart from intolerant drinkers, we see this benefit assisting key consumer groups such as toddlers (transitioning from breast to cow’s milk), sports recovery/nutrition (specifically looking for hydrolyzed whey proteins), the elderly (needing faster digestion and absorption of nutrients), and the general consumer, who is looking for a more healthy and better-tasting milk,” said Hastings.
Haelen technology is already being used to produced Wholey Milk-branded products for consumers, but there’s more work yet to be done before a more wide-scale adoption is achieved, including on labeling. “This continues to be a challenging area for regulators and the industry, and frustrating for consumers,” Hastings concluded. “We are continuing to conduct further human immunogenicity and clinical trials to enable clear label ‘claims’, both as a whole product and as an ingredient.”