A study from the Department of Safety and Quality of Milk and Fish Products, Max Rubner Institute of Germany’s Federal Research Institute of Nutrition and Food, may have come up with a method of distinguishing organic milk from the “non-organic” variety. The chemical difference between the two substances seems to be the relative amount of alpha-linolenic acid and the carbon stable isotope ratio.
From the article abstract in J. Agric. Food Chem.:
To record the variable effect of feeding, including the seasonal influence on milk composition, three conventionally and three organically produced brands of retail milk were collected biweekly during a period of 18 months. Altogether 286 milk samples were analyzed. Threshold values for the identification of German organic milk were established and allowed to delimit almost all conventional samples. Organic retail milk was always above a minimum C18:3ω3 content of 0.50% and below a maximum δ13C of −26.5‰. The universal and strongly negative correlation (r = −0.93) between C18:3ω3 and δ13C impedes the intentional manipulation of conventional milk. Conventional milk can naturally exceed the C18:3ω3 limit under atypical and rare conditions, but differentiation from organic milk can be improved by time-resolved comparison of data. In contrast with the general opinion, organic milk did not generally contain more c9,t11-C18:2 (CLA) than conventional milk. The proposed limits may deviate with dairy products containing milk from foreign countries.
Abstract in J. Agric. Food Chem.: Authentication of Organic Milk Using δ13C and the α-Linolenic Acid Content of Milk Fat
American Chemical Society press release: New Test For Detecting Fake Organic Milk
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