When you go to the store to buy milk, you probably assume it came from a cow that lived on a dairy farm. For the most part, this is going to be true, but you should be aware that there are products out there that are masquerading as milk, but are not actually milk. I'm not talking about almond milk, and other milk alternatives, but rather products that are advertised as cow's milk, but are actually something else... If you aren't a savvy shopper, you might buy a milk product that is not all milk, but actually something called modified milk ingredients.
Milk Ingredients are Easy to Import
The amount of fluid milk and cream that can be imported into Canada is limited. Modified milk ingredients are a different story. Some manufactures of milk products are trying to save money by using less milk in their products. It is now possible to make so called dairy products without any fluid milk at all.
Consumers need to be aware that a product that used to be a milk product may not be now. Food processors have come up with other ways to create food that seems like a milk product but is actually made with modified milk ingredients and other non-milk ingredients.
Sleuthing Ingredient Labels
To tell if a product is a real milk product or not, read the product label and look for Milk or Cream as the first ingredient.
Watch for words like: Skim milk powder, Milk protein concentrates, Milk protein isolates, Casein, Caseinates, Whey protein concentrates. These products were initially part milk but are now modified milk ingredients, a substance that can be imported in any amount from anywhere. They are not a Canadian dairy product. Most of the modified milk ingredients used in Canada are imported from Australia or New Zealand though some does come from Europe and the US.
Also watch for Butteroil-sugar blend. This is another type of modified milk ingredients. It is made from mixing modified milk ingredients with sugar. It is thereby classed as a confectionary confectionery product which can be imported in any amount. Manufacturers use names such as Frozen Dessert and Chocolate milk beverage to try to make consumers think they're still getting a pure milk product when the reality is, if it doesn’t say milk on the label, it’s not made from pure milk and likely isn’t even Canadian.
Fat Free Might Not Be Best
So that’s a brief of explanation on modified milk ingredients. Here’s another thought: fat free and low fat milk products may not be good for you. Besides the fact that people do actually need a certain amount of saturated fat every day, you might be surprised at the contents of a so-called low fat product.
Sour Cream and Cottage Cheese, for instance, seem to have more fluid milk in the whole version than the low-fat, no-fat counterparts. The reality is, despite the fat-free food craze, some low fat dairy products might actually be unhealthier than the full fat version. Something has to make up for the taste lost by removing the fat and when that is sodium, sugars or un-identifiable ingredients such as modified milk ingredients, maybe we’re better off with moderate amounts of full fat dairy products.
A Taste Test
Several years ago when modified milk ingredients were becoming really popular in dairy products, myself and some friends taste tested some real ice cream, and some ice milk. There were six of us in all, and we all noticed that the ice milk tasted much saltier. When we actually read the label, we found that the ice milk contained nearly TWICE the sodium of the regular ice cream! We also noticed that the ice milk was more gritty than creamy. Though I suppose it’s hard to expect a creamy product from a concoction that contains no cream.
So Called 'Dairy Beverage'
Another sneaky product on the market when I did this research, was Chocolate Dairy Beverage. This is a substance made by adding other ingredients to skim milk. It tastes chalky and watery compared to real chocolate milk. I first researched these products a few years ago, when this product was just coming out. I was glad to find out that it wasn’t as common as I had first believed, and I have to admit that I have not seen any for sale in awhile, though I assume it’s still out there in some grocery stores. The only difference between some brands of 1% Chocolate Milk and Chocolate Dairy Beverage is the wording on the carton. Otherwise, it looks the same.
The Little Blue Cow
The Little Blue Cow is a symbol on Canadian Milk Products. Look for it on packaging and know that you will be choosing a high quality product if you choose the Little Blue Cow.
The foods you choose to purchase and consume are entirely your choice; however, I think it’s important for people to make informed decisions and realize that, just as you can’t judge a book by its cover, an initial glance at a food carton may not tell the whole story. In this day and age of constantly trying to cut costs, cheaper ingredients are becoming more popular, sometimes at the expense of our health.
Next time you go to the grocery store, comparison shop some ingredient labels and find out what’s really in the food you want to purchase.