Avoid whitewash to find value in milk brands

CHOICE says milk doesn’t need all the extras to be good for you

A new CHOICE study of more than 100 different brands and types of cows’ milk has found the only meaningful differences are between full-cream, low-fat and skim.

It says the generic brands typically sold by supermarkets under their own labels, which command 43% of the market, are effectively the same quality as the well-known brands, which can cost up to twice as much.

The consumer group says most people get no real benefit from the more expensive ‘milk’ products with added extras and non-diary additives such as minerals, vitamins and even fish oil.

These include products that can’t be called ‘milk’ on the label under the Food Standards Code but look like milk, are packaged like milk and are kept in the milk fridge in supermarkets.

Some say they are low in saturated fat but CHOICE says the difference is so small it’s hardly worth paying up to double for.

Others contain omega-3 fats but you’d need to drink two litres of the product to get the same benefit from the fatty acids as eating a small 50g portion of Atlantic salmon. The same limited benefit and higher cost is true for drinks containing plant sterols and added fibre.

“Although some brands claim to be high in calcium, normal, unadulterated milk is a good source of calcium regardless of the brand,” said CHOICE spokesman Christopher Zinn.

“Likewise with the added extras in milk – you’re essentially just paying an excess for what amounts to a very negligible benefit in terms of added vitamins.”

Almost all milk is highly processed. It’s pulled apart to separate the cream from the skim and then reassembled to combine the skim with just enough cream to make full-cream or low-fat milk. Low-fat and skim milks are usually boosted with skim milk powder.

The Food Standards Code allows the dilution of milk with ‘milk components’ such as permeate, which is a by-product of cheese making.

The code requires all milk to be pasteurised to kill bacteria. It’s then homogenised to prevent the cream separating and floating on top.

Want to know more?

See the CHOICE article

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Milk products review

So many milk brands, so much marketing hype. CHOICE shows you where to find the real value.

10 Sep 2009 | CHOICE has skimmed off the marketing hype and found that generic brands of milk are much the same as the equivalent big national brands.

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