Are we drinking cows’ milk that is vastly deficient in vital nutrients because it has been exposed to artificial lighting? That is the fear being spread in a campaign by an American packaging company.
Page-length newspaper adverts are asking people: ‘Did you know recent studies show that indoor lights can degrade the freshness, taste and nutrients that we love in milk?’
It sounds disturbing. After all, families rely on the white stuff to provide such nutrients as protein and vitamins A (for immune defences and eyesight), D (for bones and teeth) and B2 (for healthy skin and nerves).
But what if half of that goodness isn’t there, because the energy from light has destroyed milk’s delicate nutrients?
Are we drinking cows’ milk that is vastly deficient in vital nutrients because it has been exposed to artificial lighting? That is the fear being spread in a campaign by an American packaging company (stock image)
The company behind the adverts, Noluma, launched its publicity campaign in a trendy pop-up shop on London’s Portobello Road last month.
The marketing initiative featured an on-site barista serving up ‘light-protected milk’ in special packaging, surrounded by signs that proclaimed: ‘After 16 hours of indoor light exposure, milk has lost 49 per cent of its vitamins.’
In a YouTube video that the company posted, it erroneously shrank this to ‘just two hours’.
The 16-hour figure seems to be based on a 2002 study by Cornell University in the U.S., published in the Journal of Dairy Science — but the research only applied to skimmed milk.
Whole milk is more robust, not least because it is more opaque. The Cornell researchers found that whole milk requires more than 50 hours’ sitting under full light to show the same amount of deterioration.
Noluma says it is particularly concerned about the possible effects of energy-saving LED lights, which are being used in British supermarkets to replace fluorescent lamps. It argues that the light wavelengths emitted by LEDs are more damaging to milk.
But why such concern for our well-being? It seems hardly a coincidence that Noluma (a spin-off from the U.S. chemicals giant DuPont) has invented a light-proof form of packaging for milk.
The company quotes research claiming that under LED lighting, there is a drop in vitamin D and protein after just 20 minutes, and the level of vitamin B2 falls by 28 per cent.
The 16-hour figure seems to be based on a 2002 study by Cornell University in the U.S., published in the Journal of Dairy Science — but the research only applied to skimmed milk (stock image)
The main source of its scientific claims is a report by Newcastle University entitled ‘Milk: Light exposure and depletion of key nutrients’, which was commissioned by Noluma at a cost of £28,000.
The report is a review of previous studies and was not published in any scientific journal. In fact, the report did not meet Newcastle University’s standards for research publication and in May this year the university asked Noluma to remove its brand from the publicity-campaign materials.
‘The press release was written and promoted by the funder,’ a university spokesman told Good Health. ‘While the results are interesting, the report has not been subject to scientific peer review. As such, the study did not pass the standard required by Newcastle University.’
Futhermore, while Noluma claims that modern LEDs are much worse than fluorescent lamps at degrading fresh milk, other research has shown the opposite. In 2016, Utah State University in the U.S. compared the deterioration of milks exposed to LED and fluorescent lights.
The milk producers’ organisation, Dairy UK, says that fresh milk is not exposed to bright light for extended periods on its journey from farm to fridge anyway (stock image)
Its study concluded that taste quality and vitamins A and B2 content were significantly reduced by fluorescent light, but not by LEDs, reported the Journal of Dairy Science.
The milk producers’ organisation, Dairy UK, says that fresh milk is not exposed to bright light for extended periods on its journey from farm to fridge anyway.
It adds that milk is regularly taken from supermarkets’ shelves to be quality-tested by Public Health England, and the results are shown on the products’ nutrition labels — so these are the levels of vitamins and proteins that should be present.
A spokesman said: ‘Once in a consumer fridge, milk will usually be kept in the dark and only subject to light for short bursts.’
So unless your milk is delivered in clear bottles by a milkman who leaves them in direct sunlight, or the light in your fridge doesn’t go off when the door shuts, there may be little cause for concern.
Georgia Kollias, vice-president for global brand communications at Noluma, told Good Health that the company is tracking ‘a lot of research on the subject of light damage in dairy’ and anticipates further results to support its position.
Meanwhile, if you want to ensure that your milk stays fresh, do set your fridge thermostat properly.
A report last November by Wrap, a waste reduction charity, warned that milk often goes off prematurely because the average household fridge is two degrees warmer than the guideline maximum of 5c.