What is diafiltered milk?

May 4th, 2016

There has been much discussion in the media lately on diafiltered milk. Diafiltration is an additional step in milk processing that is sometimes done to achieve a higher protein concentration. For many milk protein concentrates, the process begins and ends with ultrafiltration - without the addition of any diluent. Due to the fact that the milk protein concentrate is so thick after undergoing ultrafiltration, it has to be diluted to achieve a further level of protein concentration. At which point it is filtered a second time. This second filtration after the retentate of the ultrafiltration has been diluted is known as diafiltration.

Dialfiltered milk is currently being imported into Canada as an ‘ingredient’, allowing it to enter into Canada tariff free. Under the cheese compositional standards for Canada, it is required that a minimum percentage of the protein used in cheese making be sourced from milk. Some processors have taken to using milk protein substances, such as diafiltered milk, as part of their required minimum percentage of ‘milk’ when making cheese, instead of using it as a part of their allowable percentage of ‘ingredients’. Diafiltered milk cannot be an ‘ingredient’ when it crosses the border, and ‘milk’ when it comes to making cheese.

The rules that are in place are not being enforced, and this is causing revenue losses estimated at $231 million per year for Canadian dairy farmers. Dairy farmers need the government to act urgently to enforce the existing compositional standards for cheese, which is a domestic issue, and impacts Canada’s sovereign right to implement our own food policy and regulations. Dairy Farmers of Canada is not seeking any regulatory change, we are simply seeking that Canada’s domestic regulations are respected.

The enforcement of the compositional standards for cheese does not mean that dairy farmers are looking to stop imports, nor does it in any way alter the rules governing the importation of diafiltered milk into Canada as an ingredient. American companies seeking to export diafiltered milk into Canada as an ingredient remain free to do so. It is only fair that if something is considered to be an ingredient when it crosses the border, it is also considered to be an ingredient when it is used to make cheese. This request does not in way ask the Canadian government to alter the terms of Canada’s TPP commitments on dairy, either. Canada has an excellent track record at fulfilling its commitments on imports (TRQs). DFC has never demanded that the government not respect its trade obligations. It is the Canadian government’s responsibility to ensure that there is no circumvention of those commitments.

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