testing for chlorate residues in milk
Independent Milk Laboratory (IML) offers commercial services to analyse milk constituents, FBA Labs provides analytical services to agribusiness, farmers and veterinary practitioners, while Kerry Group provides technology based taste & nutrition solutions for food, beverage and pharmaceutical markets, including infant formula.
Between June 2020 and 2022, licensing of know-how and provision of critical consultancy in relation to specialist testing for chlorate residues has generated significant impacts for the three companies, Teagasc and Irish dairy industry. All companies emphasised the importance of Teagasc expertise and reputation enabled via the consultancy in ensuring successful technology transfer and significant impacts on their businesses.
International markets have set high standards for milk and dairy product quality, including stringent guidelines for residue concentrations. The presence of chlorate and perchlorate residues arising from chlorine-based disinfectants (used for cleaning milking machines and bulk tanks in processing plants), has gained much attention in recent years. As competitive inhibitors of iodine uptake in the thyroid, these present a potential health concern for vulnerable groups, particularly infants, hence of very pertinent concern to Irish milk processors, as ingredient providers of infant formula. Given how significant and lucrative this market is for Irish milk producers, with €1 billion exports pa from six global infant formula (IF) manufacturers based here, any concerns with respect to chlorate residues in milk or dairy ingredients could be seriously detrimental to Ireland’s exports and dairy industry reputation.
In 2016, following urgent requests from the Irish dairy industry to develop a rapid, sensitive chlorates test for milk and dairy ingredients, Teagasc developed a new test at its ISO17025 accredited Laboratories in Dublin, which provides specialist-testing services for research, regulatory agencies and industry. Following investment through staffing and state of the art equipment, a novel proprietary high throughput test was validated, and received ISO17025 certification in 2017.
The TTO have provided considerable support to the researchers including the capture of novel IP as valuable know-how, and in subsequent consultancy contract and licensing negotiations. Given that multiple industry partners were involved, and the nonexclusive nature of licensing and consultancy, negotiations were built on clear communication and establishing trust with all partners.
Impact on the Company
From dairy industry perspective, the increased availability of sensitive testing in Ireland facilitates quick responses from local dairy processors and their milk suppliers to chlorate residue concerns, allowing prompt identification of chlorate contaminated milk before further processing, thereby reducing waste and more costly contamination of IF. From the industry partners perspective, FBA and IML have collectively tested 80,000 samples, exceeding €1 million revenue during this time, while Kerry Group have capacity to test 200 milk samples daily.