LED lights installed in milk display cases may not only reduce energy bills, but also help milk taste better, a US study has claimed. Researchers found that new LED lights that are being installed in display cases across the US leave milk with a more satisfactory taste that consumers prefer over milk that has been exposed to fluorescent lights. Exposure to certain light changes the flavour profile of milk. Milk fresh from the dairy should taste sweet and rich, however, when people described milk that was exposed to conventional fluorescent lights, they used words like “cardboard,” “stale,” and “painty.”
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“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, professor at the Virginia Tech in the US. “Milk is delicious and nutritious and we want to find ways to protect both of those characteristics to help the industry and provide an even better product to consumers,” said Duncan.
Milk consumption has been decreasing for several decades and the lighting used in retail display cases that change the taste of milk may be one of the factors for this decline, Duncan said. One of the nutrients in milk – riboflavin – oxidises when it is exposed to fluorescent lights. This reaction not only causes the taste to change, but can also reduce the nutritional content of milk.
Duncan’s tests show that when milk is stored in the traditional translucent plastic jugs, these reactions can take place in a little as two hours. Opaque milk packaging that protects riboflavin and other nutrients from lighting helps to deliver that fresh, sweet, rich taste. Duncan conducted a series of tests at the Virginia Tech Sensory Evaluation Laboratory that showed the new LED lights leave milk with a more satisfactory taste that consumers prefer over milk that has been exposed to fluorescent lights.
More work still needs to be done on packaging to protect flavor profiles even further. Every milk drinking experience should deliver that positive experience, she said. “The research that is being done around this new lighting gives us momentum to explore other ways that we can preserve the natural taste of milk,” Duncan said. The study was published in the Journal of Dairy Science.