Thumbs up for plan to boost milk production


KUALA LUMPUR: A dietician has welcomed news that the government is pushing for an increase in fresh milk production, saying she hopes it will lead to a change for the better in the dietary habits of Malaysian adults.

In an interview with FMT, National Heart Institute chief dietician Mary Easaw lamented that many Malaysians stop drinking milk in adulthood.

“We don’t have a milk drinking culture, especially among young adults,” she said. “Malaysian adults tend to substitute milk with sweetened creamers, condensed milk or evaporated milk.”

Prime Minister Najib Razak recently announced that the government would establish a national dairy board early next year. He said the board would spearhead efforts to ensure that the dairy industry would be able to produce 2.26 billion litres of milk a year by 2050.

Malaysia’s current per capita milk consumption is 19.92 litres a year. In Western countries, it is between 100 and 150 litres a year.

Mary said she hoped the production of more fresh milk would encourage people to lessen their intake of sweetened creamers and condensed milk, which tend to be loaded with sugar.

“Unless fortified, these lack the nutritional benefits of fresh or pasteurised milk, and the high sugar content could contribute to obesity,” she said.

Fresh or pasteurised milk is a good source of calcium, energy, protein, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and vitamin B12.

“It is crucial to the maintenance of our bones and it gives us energy,” Mary said. “Children need it, and adults need it just as much for strong bones.”

Mary acknowledged that many Malaysians could not drink milk due to allergy or lactose intolerance.

Milk allergy is one of the most common food allergies in children, and its symptoms include wheezing, vomiting, hives and digestive problems. The common signs of lactose intolerance are bloating and gassiness or diarrhoea.

“Label reading is important,” Mary said. “When we talk about milk, the first ingredient on the label should be milk solids. If it is sugar, then it isn’t a healthy option.

“Always read the labels to make sure you’re making healthy lifestyle choices.”