A Finnish innovation has resulted in a patent for the first method for removing lactose from food without affecting 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. The new Valio milk is completely lactose-free and "Tastes the same as regular milk," says Valio research manager Olli Tossavainen.
"Part of the lactose is removed from the milk and the rest is hydrolysed," he explains.
Tossavainen notes that the product is not necessarily for everyone, as "In Finland at least this lactose-free milk costs about twice as much as regular milk."
"Lactose intolerance incidence," he says, "varies from country to country, ranging in central Europe between 4-37% and in southern Europe between 40-70%."
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.
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