Fonterra advises need to identify dairy proteins in foods

By Helen Glaberson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Dairy giant fonterra, Nutrition, Allergy, Fonterra

An allergy scare involving the functional food product Whole has prompted Fonterra to advise manufacturers to communicate more prominently the use of dairy ingredients in foods.

Dairy giant Fonterra produces specialised dairy proteins used as ingredients by international food companies.

Fonterra chief technology officer Jeremy Hill said it is obvious that certain foods contain dairy – such as milk, cheese and yoghurt, however, more companies are using dairy-based ingredients in products that do not look like dairy foods.​This is why Fonterra says customers need to be “adequately informed”​ of the product’s content.

“Today, dairy protein ingredients can be used in many different types of food to provide consumers with health and dietary benefits. These include protein bars, sports drinks, flavoured waters and dietary supplements,” ​he added.

Hill said that although Fonterra’s international customers already have rigorous standards in place and abide by local labelling laws, Fonterra is further encouraging them to conduct a risk assessment of products containing specialised dairy proteins to determine whether additional labelling or communication is necessary.

Dairy allergy study

The push for the indentification of dairy proteins follows the publication of a new academic study in the Canadian journal​, Allergy, Asthma and Clinical Immunology (AACI)​.

The research, run by scientists at Auckland City Hospital, examined the allergenic properties of functional foods, and in particular Whole, a functional water product launched by Fonterra in New Zealand last year.

Whole was fortified with dairy protein and fibre, designed to help bridge the hunger gap between meals. After the product was launched, three consumers with dairy allergies had an allergic reaction when they consumed the beverage, not realising it contained dairy protein.

A spokesperson for the company told DairyReporter.com: “We have written to customers advising them of the latest medical literature on this and the potential need to conduct a risk assessment.”

Allergic reaction to Whole

Dr Hill said a “comprehensive plan” ​was put in place when the allergic reactions from the Whole product were brought to the company’s attention. Working with Allergy New Zealand, Fonterra said it could then alert the community about the drink’s dairy protein content.

The spokesperson said: “We immediately embarked on an education campaign with Allergy New Zealand to inform the community. E-alerts and letters to the organisation’s database, which included dieticians and health groups, were distributed.”

In addition, the company funded an allergy booklet called “Milk In Unexpected Places”​ to help consumers better understand where dairy ingredients are often used.

“From an operational viewpoint, we changed the pack labelling. As an interim step, we also produced stickers to go over the labels of stock with existing packaging,”​ said the spokesperson.

Whole was removed from the market in April 2010 because sales “were not meeting expectations”.

Fonterra is not currently producing any consumer products containing specialised dairy proteins, however, the company said that any future products which do contain these specialised proteins will follow a similar risk assessment process.

Related topics: Regulation & Policy

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