Permeate Free Milk – What’s The Big Deal?

The permeate-free revolution in Australian milk is well and truly underway after the country’s dominant retailers revealed their commitment to phasing out the additive from products.

Supermarket giants Woolworths and Coles have announced that their generic labeled milk will no longer contain permeate, a watery byproduct of milk production.

Never heard of permeate before? You’re not alone.


What is Permeate?

Basically permeate is just fresh milk with the fat and protein removed. It contains lactose, vitamins and minerals and is a valuable component of the milk.

It is not a genetically modified ingredient or a slimy waste product you might find in a bin that some news reports have made it out to be.



The fat and protein is removed from the milk via centrifugal force and filtration. And, just so we are clear, there doesn’t appear to be anything health damaging about drinking milk with added permeate, in fact permeate is actually found occurring naturally in milk.

By law permeate is allowed to be added to milk and historically has been added to ensure a consistency in taste.

Milk flavour and composition does alter throughout the seasons as the pastures the cows feed on become more lush or conversely dryer – this has an impact on taste and milk consistency.

To keep the product consistent (both nutritionally for the label and also for consumer tastes) permeate is added to the milk and provides a standardised product.


Marketing Ploy?

Dr Sherkat, who is a senior lecturer at RMIT University, says it’s just a game of smoke and mirrors, and we’ve been drinking permeate for years.

“It’s a gimmick. I know the technology inside and out. Permeate is nothing that you should be worried about. It’s a component of the milk, you can take it out and add it back,” he said.

So putting ‘permeate free’ on milk works because it sends the message that this is a good thing, that therefore having permeate is a bad thing.

“It’s frightening negative publicity. They’re creating fear to push their product on to the market. “But they’re shooting themselves in the foot. It’s a negative tactic and there should be a ban on it.” Dr Sherkat explains.


Emeds Comment

The bottom line is that our milk is not pure; permeate free or permeate full.

We need to look closer at the quality of the milk that we are told is ‘essential’ for good health.

It’s homogenised, pasteurised and hormones and antibiotics are added – far from the original product, once straight from the udder.

It’s even more interesting that supermarket milk may be contaminated with up to 20 different painkillers, antibiotics and growth hormones.

It’s pulled apart and put back together again – this processing destroys numerous essential enzymes, and the removal of butter fat, as in skim milk, reduces the ability of the body to absorb and utilise the nutrients in the milk and also removes the fat soluble vitamins.

There is much evidence to support the reduction or avoidance of dairy products even if you are not allergic to them.

Health conditions associated with milk consumption include lactose intolerance resulting in abdominal pain, gas, cramping , bloating, diarrhoea or constipation. Dairy products have also be associated with eczema, dermatitis, acne, respiratory mucus congestion and sinus problems.


What Exactly is in Our Milk?


Injection or implantation of hormones are used in dairy cows to gain more control over the cows ovulation cycles.

This allows for more frequent and shorter calving cycles, which in turn enhance profitability.

The types of hormones that are used in this process include estradiol and progesterone – female sex hormones.

A study conducted at Harvard School of Public Health claimed that there could be a causal link between dairy consumption and hormone dependant cancers such as testicular and breast cancer. (2)

Another study comparing diet and cancer rates in 42 countries amoung men aged between 20 and 39 showed that testicular cancer rates were highest in countries like Switzerland and Denmark, where milk and cheese consumption is high, while countries such as Algeria, where dairy is not widely consumed, produced lower rates of cancer. (3)


In addition to hormone residues found in milk, the use of antibiotics in dairy farming has also raised expression of concern. Antibiotics are used to control diseases but this also creates problems for both the dairy farmers and consumers. (4)

For dairy producers, antibiotic residues after mastitis treatment can inhibit cheese and yoghurt starter cultures, while for consumers, exposure to antibiotics in milk can lead to the development of antibiotic resistance and reduced immunity throughout the population.

It is also possible to cause an allergic reaction to penicillin, a widely prescribed broad spectrum antibiotic.


The Problems with Pasteurisation 

Milk is heated, while under pressure, to temperatures above 72 deg C for 15 seconds supposedly killing all pathogenic bacteria.

In Addition, Pasteurisation:

  • Gives the milk a longer shelf life
  • Permits longer shipping (raw milk will turn sour with too much handling)
  • Enables dairy corporations to control the milk supply

Pasteurising milk:

  • Destroys folic acid, vitamins B2, B12 and two thirds of the Vitamin A
  • Inactivates the enzymes required to absorb fats (lipase), carbohydrates (lactase digests lactose) and calcium (phosphotase)
  • Oxidizes cholesterol
  • Alters milk proteins
  • Damages omega-3 fatty acids


Raw Milk Revolution

Currently raw milk (milk which is unpasterised) is illegal to buy and sell in Australia.

Farmers run the risk of fines up to $70,000 if caught selling this natural product. 

Raw milk advocates who want to drink milk the way it used to be wonder why it is illegal in a world where alcohol and cigarettes are available freely over the counter.

Raw milk can be purchased from health food stores but it must be labeled ‘not for human consumption’ or as ‘bathing liquid’ and is sold for up to $4 a litre. 

Raw-milk advocates claim that it is more nutritious than pasteurised dairy. According to Real Milk Australia, a Melbourne-based group lobbying to make raw milk legal, pasteurisation eradicates vitamins, minerals and enzymes that make dairy easier to digest and less likely to trigger allergies.


Final Word

Forget the milk, want a healthier alternative? Try almond milk.

It’s all natural and you don’t have to worry about the almonds being injected with growth hormones.


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