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LED Display Lights Can Help Milk Taste Better: Study

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It is a long-held complaint by consumers of milk that lights used in retail display sour the taste of milk.

A new study suggests if LED lights are used in milk display cases, they will not only reduce energy bills but also make the milk taste better. In the United States, LED lights are widely used in milk retail outlets as a replacement of fluorescent lights.

This study was conducted by Virginia Tech researchers who said the exposure to certain light can induce a change in milk's flavor.

The findings were published in the Journal of Dairy Science. It is a known fact that consumers highly value fresh milk that comes from the dairy and has a rich taste. Milk that rests under fluorescent lights was often described as "stale and painty."

"We want to help figure out ways to return to the fresh taste of milk that our grandparents experienced when it came straight from the dairy," said Susan Duncan, a professor of food science and technology in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Duncan is also a researcher at the Fralin Life Sciences Institute.

Noting the need to retain the taste and nutrients in milk, Duncan and her team want to figure out ways to protect those characteristics and provide better products to consumers.

The study explains many advantages of replacing fluorescent lights with LED lights in reducing the negative profiles of the flavor.

Tests With LED Lights

It has been assessed that there had been a fall in milk consumption for many years. Duncan blames the effect of lighting in the retail display as one of the factors that changes the original taste of milk.

Duncan's tests at the Virginia Tech Evaluation Laboratory showed that the new LED lights create a better taste compared to milk exposed to fluorescent lights. However, more work needs to be done in packaging to restore the milk's taste to the level of freshly pasteurized milk.

Regarding the chemistry of changes, experts said the change basically affects Riboflavin — a nutrient that gets oxidized under fluorescent lights. It changes the taste of milk and reduces its nutritional content. These reactions take place in just two hours, if milk is stored in translucent plastic jugs.

The study offers a remedy saying that the situation can be salvaged by using opaque milk packaging to protect the Riboflavin and other nutrients from being lost under lighting damage.

Suitable changes in containers can also help. Oxidation that happens in milk kept in High-density polyethylene (HDPE) translucent jugs can be controlled by the use of light-blocking pigments in the said containers. This was proved in the tests as the flavor was contained and the milk tasted fresh.

Demand Up For Almond Milk

Meanwhile, almond milk has emerged as the fastest growing segment of the non-dairy milk market, according to market research.

Allied Market Research said almond milk is expected to have a compound annual growth rate of 15 percent in the coming years in North America.

Market research firm Technavio added that the higher growth for almond milk is a response to the battle against obesity in America, aided by the consumer perception that non-dairy milk is a healthier option.

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