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Italians target infants with donkey milk probiotics

By Shane Starling , 20-Jan-2014
Last updated on 07-Apr-2014 at 13:59 GMT

Milk it: Donkeys are a rich source of probiotics, says Eurolactis
Milk it: Donkeys are a rich source of probiotics, says Eurolactis

Italian firm Eurolactis is ready to bring probiotic lactic bacteria derived from donkey’s milk to market, with infant formula makers in sight.

Group chief Pierluigi Christophe Orunesu told us the company has been researching donkey milk applications for about 10 years, in the process locating eight probiotic strains of interest, two of which from the Lactobacillus genus have become the focus of its current commercial activity.

Aside from the unique source, the L. plantarum strains have been shown to boost butyric acid production, which is linked to gut microbiome wellbeing. Butyric acid is a short-chain fatty acid that is a by-product of the fermentation of fibers like fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) or inulin.

Clinical health benefit data is in the pipeline, but the process is patented, and Orunesu said the strains are being offered at prices comparable to more mainstream Lactobacillus strains.

“We are prospecting with big players and have some solid leads especially in the field of infant nutrition because the donkey milk source profile is very similar to human milk,” Orunesu said.

Seniors, supplements, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and the feed sectors were also attracting attention.

This last six years, Eurolactis has financed and encouraged teams working on innovation; we now can claim about the uniqueness of the probiotic strains we have isolated,” Orunesu said.

“Eurolactis holds a worldwide patent guaranteeing innovation to each involved partner. We are now still looking for extended applications, in Dairy and particularly in the pharmaceutical or medical which seem very promising.”

A donkey can produce up to two litres of milk per day, compared to 30-60 litres a day for dairy cows. "Cows are no longer animals," Orunesu said referring to the production-line environment that typifies many modern dairies. "They are just milk machines."

Last year the French Agency for Food, Environment and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES) said breast milk and mainstream substitutes were the best way to battle malnutrition.

According to our sister site DairyReporter, the French food safety authority made the claim following a risk assessment of these alternative milk products. ANSES said under-1s should not be fed vegetable milk products – including soya, rice and almond milk – or milk from goats, donkeys, sheep, or horses as an alternative to breast milk or infant formula.

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