Thank the Dutch. Dutch firm Gist-Brocades invented the process that made lactase drops and lactase pills commercially available. Now two more Dutch firms, the Chr. Hansen/Novozymes joint venture they call the "Milky Way Alliance," says they've invented a new way of ridding dairy of lactose.
In their press release, the details of the new process are revealed:
The Chr. Hansen/Novozymes strategic alliance which was formed in 2002 debuts a new solution marketed under the name LactoYIELD™. LactoYIELD™ converts lactose into lactobionic acid, LBA, in an enzymatic process. An advanced enzyme innovation with unique opportunities both inside and outside the food area.
"Jointly, Chr. Hansen and Novozymes have developed a process that enables industrial application of lactose oxidase, a member of the cellobiose oxidase enzyme class," explains Per Munk Nielsen, Senior Science Manager, Novozymes. "The proprietary enzyme and enzymatic process enable 100% conversion of lactose — of which the biggest cheese producers out there have a lot — into LBA. Until today LBA has been produced by costly non-enzymatic chemical reactions and primarily in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics areas."
Proof of concept
Treading new ground, the enzyme alliance has proof of concept within cheese production. "This new, proprietary process allows cost-effective manufacturing of large amounts of LBA from the whey stream in a cheese processing plant," explains Hans Christian Bejder, Marketing Director, Chr. Hansen. "LBA can be added as a dry matter into pizza cheese without influencing the properties of the cheese."
Lactobionic acid (LBA) has the chemical formula C12H22O12. Lactose has the chemical formula C12H22O11. They're both disaccharides, that is made of of two simpler sugars. Lactose is of course glucose and galactose; LBA is gluconic acid and galactose. Gluconic acid is a natural sugar found in fruit and honey.
A process that turns lactose into another similar sugar should be valuable for the dairy industry and maybe for consumers as well. No telling when we'll see the results in commercial products, but any time you can glibly throw around lactobionic acid in a post is an opportunity to be treasured.