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Finns Patent Method to Remove Lactose From Milk

A Finnish innovation has resulted in a patent for the first method for removing lactose from food without affecting its flavour.

A Finnish innovation has resulted in a patent for the first method for removing lactose from food without affecting its flavour. In other lactose-free products, enzymes are used to dissolve the lactose, leaving traces of the substance, which can affect lactose-intolerant consumers. The traditional method also changes the taste of milk products, making them sweeter. Lactose-free milk produced using the patented method tastes the same as untreated milk.

To obtain the lactose-free milk part of the lactose is physically removed from the milk using chromatographic separation and the rest is hydrolysed. The lactose content is less than 0.01% according to Valio, the Finnish company that has produced this milk. The milk is about twice the price of ordinary milk.

Lactose is the main carbohydrate constituent of milk. This sugar is hydrolysed by lactase in the intestine. However some people cannot digest lactose because they have low levels of this enzyme. Lactose intolerance is genetically determined: the conversion of cytosine to thymidine (C/T) in the promoter of the lactase gene (position -13,910), makes a person tolerate lactose. Intolerance to lactose is prevalent in Asian and African populations. "Lactose intolerance incidence," says Valio Research Manager Olli Tossavainen, "varies from country to country, ranging in central Europe between 4-37 per cent and in southern Europe between 40-70 per cent."

With such a potential market, the dairy company has high hopes for the technology. So far the company exports lactose-free milk to Sweden and "is licensing the technology to countries where it does not sell the product itself," says Tossavainen.

To search the database for Tossavainen's work, type "Tossavainen, O." into the quick search box and click 'author search'. His work on lactose removal is discussed in "Low lactose and lactose-free milk and dairy products - prospects, technologies and applications." by Jelen, P. and Tossavainen, O. in Australian Journal of Dairy Technology, 2003, 58: 161-165.

Contact: Olli Tossavainen
Tel.: +358 10 381 121

Article details

  • Author(s)
  • Isobel Hoskins
  • Date
  • 07 March 2005
  • Subject(s)
  • Food technology