VEGA News Item

Re: Alternative Dairy-products, Free-froms, and nutritional status - 19/08/2004
Supermarkets increase choices for Dairy-frees and Animal Welfarists. VEGA responds to Tesco's latest own-brand initiatives in alternatives to products from the dairy/beef/veal industry.
Dear Sir/Madam

We have been pleased to note developments in your own-brand “free-from” “dairy-products” and the attraction of increased choice for the dairy-frees, who include in their population vegetarians and animal welfarists (I am presuming also that the range may be claimed to be free from lactose and animal fats and be made in a dairy-free factory). These are products free from cow-milk and much else- free from mastitis, lameness and reproductive disorders. They indeed represent the milk of human kindness.

We have had some success with the manufacturers of other dairy alternatives to augment the fortification of the milks to the level of iodine in cow’s milk (i.e. about 30mcg/100g) added in the form of potassium iodide or iodate (levels in cow’s milk fluctuate seasonally, according to the feeding of fortified rations and to residues of disinfectant iodophors used in attempts at cleansing mucky teats and udders and the milking machinery; alternatives are being increasingly applied instead of the iodophors).

Cow milk is a major source of iodine in British diets. Dietary deficiencies are being increasingly recognized in Europe and North America. Iodised salt in these areas is supposed, albeit questionably, to raise intakes to recommended levels; however, the UK is unusual in as much as little iodised salt is used in food manufacture, cooking, or at the table, and at the moment salt would be an unapt vehicle to recommend for fortification with iodide (or iodate). Information on our website, with more to come, as well as in the NDNS (National Diet and Nutrition Survey) Volumes 4 and 5 (to be published later this year) confirm results of work elsewhere, as well as our own research, that a significant population, especially of young women, in the UK is iodine-deficient. Increased intakes of iodine are needed to maintain a smooth pregnancy and development of the baby.

We therefore recommend replacements for dairy products from cows to be fortified appropriately with a source of nutritional iodine.

We also remind manufacturers, retailers and labelling authorities that our research and analyses we’ve had done (the results of which are published in the Composition of Food Tables) show that seaweed-derived thickening and processing agents and ingredients such as agar, carrageenan, and alginates can be counted as dietary sources of iodine, as can also dyestuffs such as erythrosine, which is used to enhance the colouring of products such as yoghurts with strawberry or raspberry flavouring. Manufacturers have been unwilling to disclose the composition of such commodities suitable for calculations from available data, and individual independent analyses by us would cost more than we could afford. This precaution should be observed, however: frequent intakes of foods very rich in iodine can be as harmful as diets deficient in this essential micro-nutrient.

I hope this information is useful. We would be happy to discuss these matters further, if you wished.

Best wishes

Alan Long
Hon Research Adviser


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