November 14, 2007

Health claims escalate organic milk sales in EU



Profits of organic milk in the EU have increased by 11 percent to 200 million litres a year over studies linking the product with a number of health benefits, a leading dairy processor claims.


The organic milk market is growing year-on-year at a rate 11.5 percent, said Yeo Valley Organic, pointing to figures from AC Nielsen Scantrack.


The findings stress the growing potential for processors using organically sourced ingredients in their products. 


The company said the value of the EU organic milk market alone has reached GBP150 million (212.7 million euros, US$326.6 million) after recent studies has linked organic dairy produce to reduced levels of allergens like eczema in young children.


Yeo Valley marketing director Ben Cull claims the organic milk market has increased 16 percent in the last 12 months since November 2006, and this level of growth is expected to continue.


He stated that strong ethical and environmental benefits have intensified demand for organic milk but new research showing nutritional benefits take sales a leap forward.


The market for private label organic milk in particular had been strong during the last 12 months, up 147 percent on a year-on-year basis, the company added.


The claims come on the back of a number of studies on the reported health benefits of organic dairy products over the conventional kind.


In a GBP12 million (17 million euros)- EU study, conducted over four years, found that organic milk contained 90 percent more antioxidants than non-organic milk.


Scientists have previously linked antioxidants to a reduced risk of contracting breast cancer and heart disease. 


A study published by the British Journal of Nutrition in April, reports that obtaining at least 90 percent of dairy and meat products from organic sources increases levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).


"We show here that the levels of both rumenic acid and trans-vaccenic acid (TVA) in human breast milk were higher in the case of mothers following a diet that contained organic dairy and meat products, in comparison with mothers consuming a conventional diet," wrote lead author Lukas Rist from Paracelsus Hospital Richterswil in Switzerland.


"In view of the accumulating evidence pointing towards various positive effects of CLA on human health, in particular at a very young age, the present results are highly interesting," he added.


The research was performed in collaboration with scientists from the University of Hamburg, Maastricht University, TNO Nutrition and Food Research, Louis Bolk Institute (Driebergen), Zurich University Hospital.


Rist said these findings provide scientific support for common sense by showing "organic foods are healthier".


"The study shows that breastfeeding mothers can influence the supply and quality of fatty acids for their infants, by eating a diet with organic dairy," he added.


According to a study published recently in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, the world market for certified organic foods was estimated at US$23 billion to US$25 billion (17.3 to 18.8 billion euros) in 2003 with annual growth of about 19 percent.


Rist and co-workers took breast milk samples from 312 breastfeeding mothers taking par in the KOALA Birth Cohort Study. Dietary intakes of organic and conventionally produced foods were assessed using a 160-item food frequency questionnaire (FFQ).