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Monday, January 09, 2006

Nisin. The Milk Derivative You've Never Heard Of

The new food labeling law doesn't really change all that much, as most responsible companies have been warning consumers about the presence of milk and milk derivatives in their products for years.

Still, getting the cheaper and more recalcitrant companies to comply is a good thing.

And so are the spate of articles talking about the law and giving examples of foods that will trigger the mandatory labeling.

Here's one. "Label law puts food allergens in spotlight," by Sonja Isger in the Palm Beach Post.

The packaging on the cheese said it was "nondairy," that it contained no milk, that it was made with rice. But when Andy Weir bit into it, the toddler with an allergy to milk swelled in reaction.

What'd his mom miss on that label?

"Casein," Diana Weir said.

Casein. Caseinates. Curds. Ghee. Lactoferrin. Whey. Nisin. In food-ingredient lingo, they all mean "contains milk."


Wait a minute. Nisin?

Yep. Nisin (pronounced NYE-sin) is a protein antibiotic used for the last 40 or so years as a food preservative. From Answers.com.

Nisin is produced by fermentation using the bacterium Lactococcus lactis . Commercially it is obtained from natural substrates including milk and is not chemically synthesized. It is used in processed cheese production to extend shelf life by suppressing gram-positive spoilage and pathogenic bacteria. There are many other applications of this preservative in food and beverage production.


The problem with commercial nisin is that it's cut with milk. According to the Natural and Organic News column, produced by by Jane Andrews, the Corporate Nutritionist for the Wegmans supermarket chain:

If you think that all things natural are always safe to eat, then you're not thinking of people with food allergies. To anyone else, a natural preservative called Nisin that's now used in several sauces made in our Central Kitchen sounds innocent. Pronounced NYE-sin, it's a powdered additive that's about 24% milk solids because it's made from milk through bacterial fermentation. That's fine for most people, but if you have an allergy to milk protein or have lactose intolerance, you need to know it's there. (Posted 04-29-05)


Now you do. Help spread the word.

For further information on, or names of, products or ingredients derived from milk, look at the following pages on my website: The SuperGuide to Dairy Products or Dairy or Nondairy? The Experts Speak.

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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just for clarity -- commercial Nisin is not cut with milk. There are a few regulations that dictate what Nisin Preparation is and must contain when used in foods. And, today, all suppliers that I'm aware of are standardizing Nisin with salt. If one were to look at the Code of Federal Regulations (Sec. 184.1538 Nisin preparation), or at the FCC Monograph, they would find that "Nisin Preparation" is very clearly defined. Hence, this issue of avoiding Nisin because it's cut with milk is inaccurate. To be fair, Nisin was produced years ago using milk-based nutrients for the fermentation step (prior to separation and purification of the Nisin). Today, however, all major players in the industry have shifted to non-animal-produced components. So, it's all "vegetal" and contains no milk, milk byproducts, or milk derivates.

Hope that helps!

Steve Carper said...

Thanks for the 2018 update. Nice to see changes in the industry.

Blue Sky Farm said...

I would also comment that a long time company uses this in a non dairy product that they label as kosher and contains salmon.