The erosion of milk’s reputation as a healthy food choice is the biggest issue facing the nation’s dairy industry, said the new dairy chair for The Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.
“We could survive longer on milk without food, without water, without pizza, than you can survive on anything else,” said Rafael Jimenez-Flores, who joined the college as the J.T. 'Stubby' Parker Endowed Chair in Dairy Foods earlier this year.
He has made it his mission to demonstrate scientifically the nutritional benefits of milk in the face of “fear mongering” that may have led to some public misconceptions that it is not good for you. “It is unethical to use fear for profit when we are trying to feed the world,” he said.
Calling milk “the only food that has evolved with us,” Jimenez-Flores points out that the lactose in milk favors positive gut bacteria, which aid digestion.
In addition, the milk fat globule membrane has been shown to help prevent obesity and cancer as well as to enhance brain development, Jimenez-Flores said.
Ohio’s dairy industry has a strong reputation for processing in a manner that allows waste to be used as raw materials, adding value to dairy by-products, he said.
Among his current research initiatives is an examination of the “fresh milk” concept in Australia, where unpasteurized milk is being sold to consumers. Rather than using heat to kill harmful bacteria, the process requires a high-pressure treatment, Jimenez-Flores said. He is working on a proposal to investigate high-pressure homogenization as well.