We Are What We Eat: Modified Milk Ingredients


It's not just in processed cheese....

It’s not just in processed cheese….


It may sound like something out of an Orwellian dystopia, but “Modified milk ingredients” (mmi) are really not that scary. When the first ingredient listed on the label of a run of the mill “ice cream,” or “frozen dessert” is “Modified milk ingredients” and not cream, or milk, you might be justified in wondering exactly what this means. Sometimes this labelling is represented as simply, “Milk Ingredients” which perhaps implies that what you are getting is not exactly milk, or the milk ingredients are not the modified variety, or that through the miracle of modern science milk has been deconstructed and only some of it’s ingredients are contained therein.



Modified milk ingredients may appear in many dairy items whenever milk or cream is traditionally used, like ice-cream, ice- milk, cheeses, processed cheese and cheese slices, sour cream, yogurt and even milk chocolate. You don’t really know what’s in it until you have a look at the label. So what is, or are, modified milk ingredients?




“Modified milk ingredients: any of the following in liquid, concentrated, dry, frozen or reconstituted form, namely, calcium-reduced skim milk (obtained by the ion-exchange process), casein, caseinates, cultured milk products, milk serum proteins, ultrafiltered milk, whey, whey butter, whey cream and any other component of milk the chemical state of which has been altered from that in which it is found in milk.” – Food & Drug Regulations


“Milk of course is quite a complex mixture of substances. It is mostly water in which the milk sugar lactose is dissolved, and goblets of fat and proteins, the so-called caseins, are suspended. Milk has a rather limited shelf life, but its components, if separated, can last longer and can be used in a variety of ways. This has given rise to a range of milk-processing industries. If the water is evaporated, we end up with dried whole milk. Then there is skim milk, partially skim milk, whey proteins, caseins, butter-oil, anhydrous butter-oil, skim milk powder. Some of these can be modified to produce cultured milk products or milk protein concentrates. The driving force here is economy. By using specific modified milk ingredients, manufacturers can make cheese or ice cream products more cheaply and with longer shelf life. Taste usually suffers.

While the use of these modified milk products may be unappealing, there is no health issue here. All of the components were originally present in milk. In some cases one can even argue for improved health benefits, as in the use of skim milk powder to replace full fat milk. While there is no health concern, there is a political question. The amount of fluid milk that can be imported into Canada without a tariff is limited. But modified milk ingredients fall under different regulations. It is cheaper for manufacturers to make dairy products with imported modified ingredients than with Canadian milk.”- blogs.mcgill.ca 

And this:

“There is also something called butteroil-sugar blend, which is a mix of modified milk ingredients and sugar. Because all of these ingredients aren’t actually milk, they are not subject to tariffs when they enter Canada and they are much cheaper to use than real milk in products like ice cream, cheeses and yogurts….”- blog.dongenova 

 We all want to eat well, to eat right. And we want to do it economically and prudently too. Making choices can be difficult, but at least you should be aware of the facts that determine the choice you are making, and what you are putting into your body. Perhaps we can’t always eat organic, or free-range, and modified milk ingredients, now the norm, are a healthy, affordable and safe compromise.


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