Coca-Cola now among key companies in global UF milk
As reported last week, Coca-Cola acquired the remaining shares of fairlife LLC from its joint venture partner Select Milk Producers, moving from 42.5% ownership to 100% sole owner of the brand. Select Milk is a 99-member cooperative run and founded by Dr. Mike and Sue McCloskey. Mike McCloskey is also co-founder and chairman of the board of Fair Oaks Farms, and he was chairman of the Sustainability Initiative of DMI’s Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy in 2014, when fairlife ultrafiltered (UF) milk was officially launched.
DMI officials have indicated checkoff funding for promotion exhibits at Fair Oaks Farms’ visitor center in Indiana, an hour south of Chicago. However, DMI indicates that its financial grants to the fairlife milk brand for promotion ended in 2019. To receive funding, companies with approved innovations also spend a comparatively larger amount of their own money.
Available tax forms for 2017 and 2018 list DMI grants to fairlife of $8 million for promotion in each of those years, and prior support was available from affiliated research and development resources in the Chicago suburbs of Rosemont, where DMI and Fonterra are both located.
Ultrafiltration is a process that can vary by dairy product application and is used around the world. A 2018 Transparency Market Research report pegged Coca-Cola among the companies it listed as “key players operating in the global ultrafiltered (UF) milk market, along with HP Hood LLC, Idaho Milk Products Inc., Fonterra Co-operative Group, Kerry Group, Tatura Milk Industries Ltd., Darigold Ingredients Company, Erie Foods International Inc., Enka Sut Company, Grassland Dairy Products and others.”
In 2017, the FDA said it would no longer strictly adhere to its standards of identity regarding types of milk for making standardized cheeses, and now FDA has opened a new public comment period to settle the use and labeling of UF milk in standardized products.
While fairlife ultrafiltered milk is still considered a fresh product with an extended shelf life of 90-days, some products in the brand’s lineup are shelf-stable and aseptically
Dr. McCloskey confirmed in a presentation on “the road to innovation” at the 2016 Georgia Dairy Conference that fairlife ultrafiltered milk was at that time designated a Class I fluid milk product; however, some of the other beverages in the lineup are Class II.
FDA reopens UF milk comment period on use in standardized dairy products
According to an FDA statement on Jan. 2, 2020, the agency has reopened the comment period on its 2005 proposed rule that would allow the use of fluid ultra-filtered (UF) milk in the manufacture of certain cheeses and related cheese products.
The 2005 proposed rule was never adopted by FDA. Instead, a non-enforcement posture
was pursued by the agency for 16 years. FDA defines UF milk as “raw or pasteurized milk that is mechanically filtered to concentrate the proteins in milk. In the process, some of the lactose, minerals, and water-soluble vitamins are lost, along with water. The resulting protein concentrate is easier and more cost effective to ship. This same process applies to UF nonfat milk, except that raw or pasteurized nonfat milk is used.”
Formal adoption of the 2005 proposed rule is a move sought by processors since 2000, when milk protein concentrate (MPC) was imported as the dried version of UF milk to increase cheese yields in the manufacture of some types of cheeses. The industry contends that UF milk is used in dairy product manufacturing worldwide and that FDA approval was needed for the U.S. to be competitive without having to import UF milk in the form of MPC and casein from New Zealand and Europe.
The proposed rule was never confirmed by FDA, which simply looked the other way until the GAO called FDA out for not enforcing its own standards on the types of milk used in standardized cheeses. Then, in 2017,
FDA issued official guidance that, “We do not intend to take action against companies that manufacture standardized cheeses and related cheese products that contain fluid ultra-filtered milk or fluid ultra-filtered non-fat milk without declaring them in the ingredient statement.”
This meant the practice was accepted and the UF milk or MPC did not have to be listed
separately on the label. Now, the FDA is specifically requesting industry comments by March 30, 2020 to describe how much UF milk is used to make standardized cheeses and how ingredient labels should be handled when UF milk (or MPC) is included in the production process of these standardized cheeses.
FDA wants to know if labeling changes are needed and what the cost would be to the industry.
In addition, FDA wants information during public comment about how UF milk (or MPC) is used in making other dairy products or as ingredients in other food products, and how this affects consumer buying decisions.
The industry contends that any modification that would restrict the practice of using UF milk in these production processes would mean equipment widely used in plants today would have to be changed or modified.
On the flip side, if FDA moves from its non-enforcement posture to actually adopt the 2005 proposed rule to outright allow UF milk (MPC) in making various standardized cheeses, then this could be a signal of much broader acceptance of UF milk throughout the industry for other dairy and food products with standards of identity about the milk used. The question would then become: How will the labeling be handled if the standards are changed for the future as opposed to being simply ignored over the past 16 years.
Comments will be received until March 30, 2020 at the Federal Register, Docket No. FDA- 2008-P-0086. Here is the link to the online comment portal here.