UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A novel method of processing — using high-pressure jets to spray milk and then quickly drying the spray — yields skim milk powders with enhanced properties and functionality, according to Penn State researchers, who say the discovery may lead to "cleaner" labels on foods.
"Food manufacturers know consumers would like to see products that have ingredients that they can recognize," said Federico Harte, professor of food science. "The hope offered by our work is that we will be able to use milk proteins as emulsifiers or as foaming agents in food products in which a clean label is important, such as ice cream."
Milk proteins yielded by his new processing method could replace food emulsifying and foaming agents such as carrageenan, agar, albumin, alginates, glycerol monostearate, polysorbate, saccharides and lecithin, Harte pointed out.
"On the label, it would just say, 'milk proteins' — that is something all consumers can recognize, nothing is synthetic," he said. "Concerns about 'clean labels' are growing in the food industry — these are definitely buzzwords. There is no legal definition for what a clean label is, but the best way I can define it is a label that my grandmother can recognize all the ingredients."
There is nothing wrong with most of these unfamiliar ingredients, so far as we know, Harte added. But, increasingly, consumers do not want them, so the food industry hopes to remove synthetic ingredients such as emulsifiers and foaming agents from the labels of foods, using this novel processing technology.
Among the most promising properties researchers saw in the skim milk powder created by high-pressure jet spraying and drying milk were marked increases in foam expansion and foam-volume stability. That means the skim milk powder is a great candidate for use in lattes, Harte explained.