Klondyke Fresh's Graeme Brown accuses the two milk
companies of "stretching" their product. Photo by The New
Dairy giants are coming under increasing pressure to
reveal how much of a controversial "snot-like" byproduct they
put in their milk.
Fonterra and Goodman Fielder, which dominate the country's
milk market, put permeate in their milk products to
standardise protein levels year-round but refuse to say how
The head of small Canterbury milk supplier Klondyke Fresh
said the green "snot-like" permeate "stretched" the product.
"It's watering down the milk, it's shocking. They're adding a
bottle of sludge to their milk," chief executive Graeme Brown
In July, most of Australia's major milk brands, such as Pura,
Coles, Dairy Farmers and Woolworths, decided to adhere to a
self-imposed ban on adding permeate to milk.
The move came after public outcry that permeate - a
natural waste product from the ultrafiltration of milk -
watered down milk.
Re-adding permeate to milk is allowed under New Zealand food
standards which state milk must contain 3% protein.
Mr Brown called for Fonterra and Goodman Fielder to reveal on
their labels how much permeate was in their milk, a move
writer Wendyl Nissen supported.
Nissen said the reason there were food labels in New Zealand
was for clarity and so consumers knew exactly what was in
"But that's not happening here. So they do need to change the
law, they do need to tell us what permeates are in there."
Nissen said adding permeate to milk while charging consumers
top dollar for the product was "absolutely criminal".
"We're already paying one of the highest prices in the world
for milk, but we're paying for milk which has essentially
been watered down," Nissen said.
"The fact that they're putting permeates in, the fact that
we've found this out, the fact that they haven't been open
about it, the fact that they won't tell us what percentage is
in it is just disgusting."
Fonterra defended its use of permeate, saying it needed to
re-add the byproduct to its milk so that it could standardise
protein levels throughout the year.
New Zealand's three independent milk manufacturers, Klondyke
Fresh, Fresha Valley and Green Valley, all leave their milk
protein levels to fluctuate depending on the time of year.
Fonterra's business manager of beverages, Craig Irwin, said
it was "just adding milk to milk" and so there was no need to
include on labels how much permeate was in their products.
"If you read the nutritional label on a bottle of Anchor
milk, we will deliver that nutritional panel all the time."
Mr Irwin confirmed Fonterra included the byproduct in its
blue top and light blue milk products. He said it would get
"too confusing" to list the other milk products that
Mr Irwin would not say how much permeate was used because it
was commercially sensitive information.
"There's a myth out there that it's a byproduct of cheese and
that it's a nasty additive, but it's nothing of the sort ...
the focus has got to be that it's just milk," he said.
A spokesman for Goodman Fielder - which owns Meadow Fresh,
and Cow and Gate - said it strictly abided by the rules
"which are extensive and extremely tight".
All about permeate
What is milk permeate?
A watery natural high-lactose waste product created by the
ultrafiltration process of dairy products. There are two types
of permeate: whey permeate, from production of cheese and
casein, and milk permeate, from the ultrafiltration process
involved. This is what some milk producers re-add to their
Why is it re-added to milk?
Fonterra argues that it uses the additive so its milk has the
same protein levels all year round. Protein in
non-standardised milk can fluctuate at different times of the
Why is it bad?
Some argue that it waters down expensive milk. The Ministry
for Primary Industries said it had no reason to believe there
were any food safety concerns associated with the use of
permeate when standardising milk.
What are the regulations?
There are no regulations in New Zealand around re-adding
permeate to milk, because it is a dairy by-product.
The Ministry for Primary Industries said: "Milk may be
standardised with separated streams (e.g. cream or permeate)
provided the milk is truthfully labelled with regards to fat
content and meets the minimum protein levels required by
Australia New Zealand Standards Code standard 2.5.1."
How pure is our food?
The use of permeate in milk is one of several discoveries by
Wendyl Nissen in her new book. They include:
• Children are consuming artificial colours that have been
banned in other countries, yet NZ food standards allow them.
• There is no monitoring by any government body to check that
supermarkets are stocking safe food on their shelves.
• Manufacturers can use code numbers instead of actual
ingredients on their products, allowing them to hide
ingredients such as MSG or cyclamate (banned in the United
States) or propyl gallate, which is a solvent.
• Processed meats often contain less than 50% real meat - the
rest is additives and fillers.
• Dairy alternatives such as margarine are full of artificial
flavouring, colouring and other additives to make them look
and taste like butter.
• Breakfast cereals can be as much as 40% sugar and, as a
nation, we average 32 teaspoons of sugar a day per person.