Milk Lighten Up
In the 1970’s, milk packaging began to change from glass and thin cardboard to translucent plastic. Not long afterwards, consumers began to complain that the flavor of their milk was worsening. The culprit was thought to be florescent lighting. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Now scientists are encouraging supermarkets to change the lighting in their refrigeration units to LEDs.
Duncan: With the emphasis to change to LED lighting in order to preserve energy, the change might be beneficial to the protection of milk flavor, because LED lighting does not have as extreme an effect on milk flavor as does the fluorescent lighting.
Susan Duncan is the associate director of the Virginia Agricultural Experimental Station at Virginia Tech. She says that besides changing the lighting in stores, re-thinking milk packaging is in order.
Duncan: Packaging that can limit this reaction that causes the off-flavor and degrades in vitamins is very important. We need a package that prevents the light energy from reaching the molecules within milk, specifically the riboflavin and some other active molecules. Our job is to figure out how to identify the best packaging that minimizes the reactions, protects the flavor and still has a low cost for the package.
One idea would be a milk carton with an indicator that displays the condition of its contents.
Duncan: The risk we have is that the consumer would see a package has been exposed to light and we may end up with a whole lot of excess milk never being purchased because of the concern.
According to Professor Duncan, glass, paper or plastic packages with effective light-blocking properties are thought to do the best job of protecting milk from the effects of lighting. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.