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I've heard that skimmed milk has more added chemicals than whole milk. Is this true?

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Skim Milk is the product of a process that happens at the dairy processor. Every dairy has their own process though most follow similar processes with different machinery. So it is possible that one dairy adds chemicals that another does not. Even though both dairies produce milk for the same label. I think for this to be a good question you would need to question a specific chemical(s) commonly found in skim milk. –  Chad Jan 17 '12 at 14:09
It's not technically a chemical, but skim milk used to have powdered non-fat milk added to it, for body. And the process of converting milk to powder, is thought to damage the cholesterol, which can lead to atherosclerosis. –  John C Apr 11 '12 at 11:47
@JohnC: That claim is investigated here –  Oddthinking May 13 '12 at 2:21
This seems to be a country-specific question. I assume you're referring about US-legislation? For instance, here in Germany (possibly Europe) milk may only be sold as milk - skimmed or not - when it's treated with heat or a mechanical process. Everything else must not be called milk. –  Alexander Janssen Dec 17 '13 at 8:39
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2 Answers 2

up vote 11 down vote accepted

The prescriptionist scientist in me rejects the question as meaningless! The descriptivist in me compels me to try to answer the question you meant to ask.

Both whole milk and skim milk (in the USA) may be fortified with vitamins A and/or D.

Sharon Gerdes wrote in Dairy Foods (Feb 2009):

The dairy industry has been adding vitamin D3 to milk since 1932. In the 1940s, the dairy industry also began fortifying with vitamin A.

They can also be fortified with other nutrients such as Calcium.

However, the milk must be labeled if they are fortified. There are limits to what can be added to milk and still call it "milk". (See Section 131.110 of Standards of Identity.)

The fortification is optional, so it depends on the source. So, to see what additives are in your preferred brands of milk, check the labels. Before you discard the ones with more Vitamin A and D, ask if you are really concerned that the risks of extra vitamins outweigh the benefits - ditto with the fat content.

However, Cornell University's Milk Facts suggests a motivation for additional Vitamin A fortification in skim milk: because it is naturally lower in vitamin A, it needs more added to bring it to the same levels as whole milk.

Whole milk is considered a good source of vitamin A. Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin that is found in the fat phase of milk. The vitamin A content that occurs naturally in 2%, 1% and skim milk is less than in whole milk because of the lower fat levels. Nutritional concerns about consumption of lower fat milk in the late 1970s led to the required fortification of vitamin A in lower fat milks. To achieve the nutritional equivalence of whole milk, lower fat milks should be fortified to 300 IU vitamin A per 8 oz serving. The FDA encourages fortification to a level of 500 IU of vitamin A per 8 oz serving, which is 10 % of the recommended daily allowance (RDA).

Letting my inner prescriptionist off his leash for a moment:

In science, the word "chemical" means the same as chemical substance.

(Ref: High school chemistry, plus the above Wikipedia article that states: 'the term chemical substance is a precise technical term that is synonymous with "chemical" for professional chemists'.)

Under this definition, everything is either a chemical substance or a mixture of chemical substances. (Okay, not everything. Not light or heat or love or skepticism, but everything made of solids, liquids, gasses or plasma. Everything you can touch, taste or smell.)

So, 1kg of whole milk is 100% chemicals, and 1kg of skim-milk is 100% chemicals. No difference.

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+1 100% chemicals. If only we say this every time a "are there chemicals in it?" question comes up. –  matt_black Jan 15 '12 at 14:19
@matt_black, I think our position has about another decade in it, before the looser definition of "artificial additives" (whatever that really means) wins out. It has already won some battles –  Oddthinking Jan 15 '12 at 15:01
When someone starts talking about chemical free, and all natural, they never take me up on the "All natural" blocks of Arsenic as a foodsource... –  Larian LeQuella Jan 15 '12 at 20:34
@Oddthinking - This is a good and true answer but I think the OP intended the question to mean more artificially created chemicals. (IE Pest/herbicides, artifical hormones, artifical flavor enhancers, etc) –  Chad Jan 17 '12 at 14:04
@LarianLeQuella - What Chad said. The question was about adding readily distinguishable chemical substances NOT found in raw milk. –  DVK Jan 17 '12 at 14:45
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Skim milk is usually made by centrifugation of whole milk. Otherwise the fatty cream is allowed to rise naturally, and skimmed off. Neither process involves adding new chemicals to the milk, or anything other than separation based on physical properties. If you're counting types of chemicals in your milk, whole milk will be slightly higher, as it still contains all those fats and fat soluble materials that make up cream. As Oddthinking states, both whole and skim milk may be fortified by vitamins A and/or D.

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Is there specific research showing that no "taste enhancing" chemicals are added to what would otherwise be very crappy tasting product? –  DVK Jan 17 '12 at 14:46
@DVK - That depends on the dairy processing it. Skim milk is an edible foodsource(as cited above) with out the flavor enhancers... that does not mean that some dairy's can not add them anyway. –  Chad Jan 18 '12 at 13:47
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