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This may seem like an idiotic question, but Indonesians officials say that condensed milk does not contain milk.

With no milk at all, sweetened condensed milk has managed to cheat those people who often serve it to children, as an alternative to the more expensive milk powder.

source

It's hard to get an English source for this claim. However, this news is going viral in Indonesia.

So I would like to check.

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    Be careful though and ensure that the product is labelled as "condensed milk" instead of "creamer". Creamer can be 100% vegetable oil - either pure palm oil or other types of vegetable oil, but palm oil is usually cheapest. – slebetman Jul 6 '18 at 13:21
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    Not that this is the reason in this question, but beware that each country typically has an agency that decides what can legally be called/ sold as food X, in that country. So, the Indonesian FDA definition of 'meat' may well differ from the US FDA, EU EFSA etc. Inter-country disagreements are rarely a question of outright misrepresentation of the main ingredients (although witness the US dairy industry's legal objection to soy/almond/coconut 'milk' ), but rather additives or treatments Banned in Europe, Safe in the US – smci Jul 8 '18 at 23:38
130

Sweetened condensed milk is made by evaporating some of the water from milk and adding sugar. So yes it does contain milk as your wikipedia link in your original question stated.

The article that you link to though appears to be a bad translation of what officials are saying. According to The Jakarta Post condensed milk or sweetened condensed milk may no longer be marketed like it is the same as ordinary milk.

Sweetened condensed milk contains additional sugar making it a poor substitute for ordinary milk. Unfortunately, the producers of SCM (or SKM in Indonesia) have long sold it as a healthy alternative to ordinary milk. This includes recommending two glasses a day mixed with water, having images of fresh milk on the label, and having images of young children drinking it on the label. Under new advertising guidelines these would be forbidden.

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    The same happened in the u.s. in the 50's. The popular Burns and Gracie show was sponsored by Carnation Condensed Milk and regularly encouraged replacing regular milk with it. I don't know if such marketing became illegal, but it no longer happens. – fredsbend Jul 5 '18 at 14:56
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    So, does Condensed Milk Contain Milk? – AnoE Jul 5 '18 at 16:04
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    In a hot climate where many people do not have refrigerators, tins of sweetened condensed milk are the safest way to store and consume milk. – Elise van Looij Jul 6 '18 at 14:48
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    @ElisevanLooij I'm pretty sure evaporated milk or powdered would serve the same purpose, but without packing the added sugar of sweetened condensed milk. Sure the SCM tastes better, but EM/PM are healthier since, reconstituted, they're basically just plain milk (1 cup of reconstituted SCM contains nearly 80g of sugar!) – Doktor J Jul 6 '18 at 16:59
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    @DoktorJ: High concentrations of sugar can act as a preservative, which is why foodstuffs like honey and syrup can be stored at room temperature without spoilage. I don't know if the sugar concentration in condensed milk is sufficient for such purposes, but I would guess that it probably is, and that it usefully served that role in an era before it was practical to package evaporated milk in single-use containers or refrigerate it after opening. – supercat Jul 6 '18 at 23:27
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Notwithstanding the @Legion600 's answer to the implicit question, I just wanted to be clear:

Yes. Condensed milk contains milk

At the very least, Nestle Carnation Milk contains milk, sugar and nothing else. According to their product website:

Sweet and deliciously creamy, Carnation® Condensed Milk is made from all natural ingredients.

Made with just two ingredients, fresh whole milk and natural sugar...

INGREDIENTS: Whole Milk, Sugar. Minimum 8% Milk Fat, 20% Milk Solids Not Fat.

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    Of all the sources... – Failed Scientist Jul 6 '18 at 6:23
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    My initial source was a tin of condensed milk in my pantry, but wasn't a very practical reference... – Ty Hayes Jul 6 '18 at 8:24
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    @VinceO'Sullivan - here whole milk presumably means none of the milk-fat is skimmed off before evaporating/condensing. Carnation Light Condensed Milk is a similar Nestlé product with as much sugar but with almost no fat – Henry Jul 6 '18 at 10:04
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    @VinceO'Sullivan - The ingredients of a product are the raw items added into the mixing bowl. If you add rum and then evaporate away all the alcohol and water, rum is still an ingredient, measured by how much you started out with, not how much you ended up with. (See also: chorizo made with 130g of pork per 100g of final product.) – Nigel Touch Jul 6 '18 at 13:33
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    @Michael Fairly sure that the order of ingredients on the list is determined by their respective amounts in the final product, not in the mixing bowl. If something largely disappears in the production process, it’s labelled as “may contain traces of” or similar. I’m also fairly sure you’d be in trouble for putting egg shells (whose outer surface may have been stamped with ink and chemically treated by all kinds of methods) into foodstuffs, even if you do take them back out. I wouldn’t advise it, in brief. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 7 '18 at 10:46
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It usually does. There can be no definitive answer because as noted in the 14th edition of A Complete Course in Canning and Related Processes there's no international standard for condensed milk. So it depends on the national/regional standards how much milk must there be in it. But the book does give some usual industry figures:

In the manufacturing of sweetened condensed milk, standardisation to a definite percentage composition may be accomplished in three separate steps—the first standardisation establishes the desired ratio of fat to solids-not-fat of the fresh milk; the second establishes the desired ratio of added sugar to total milk solids (approximately 16½ kg of sugar is added per 100 kg of milk if the milk is to be condensed to 30% milk solids, whereas about 18 kg of sugar is added if the milk is to be condensed to 28% milk solids); and the third adjusts the concentration of the finished product to the desired percentage of total solids.
Some manufacturers prefer to slightly overcondense and then standardise back to the concentration desired by the addition of a calculated amount of water or skim milk.

So, yeah, according to the usual manufacturing process, most of the mass of condensed milk... originates from milk. A less scientific article which reiterates the same, but also explain the difference with "evaporated milk":

Both evaporated and condensed milk begin as fresh milk. The milk undergoes a vacuum process that evaporates over half the volume of water and concentrates the nutritive part of the milk. Evaporated milk is then poured into cans that are heatsterilized to prevent spoilage. The ultrahigh temperatures of sterilization cause the milk sugars to caramelize and give evaporated milk its characteristic cooked taste. In the end, evaporated milk has the consistency of light cream and a tint that ranges from ivory to pale amber.

Condensed milk is basically evaporated milk with a lot of sugar added (up to 2-1/3-cups per 14-oz. can) before it’s canned. The result is a thick, gooey, and intensely sweet product. Since large amounts of sugar prevent bacterial growth, condensed milk doesn’t need to be heat-sterilized and has a less caramelized flavor than evaporated milk.

Despite their similar packaging and nomenclature, evaporated and condensed milk are not interchangeable. Evaporated milk can be reconstituted with an equal volume of water and used to replace fresh milk in most recipes.

Due to its high sugar content, the primary use for condensed milk is in sweets.

And the Encyclopedia of Food Sciences and Nutrition has a bit of background story as to when the naming difference originated:

The basic process for preservation of unsweetened condensed milk by heat sterilization was conceived by John B. Meyenberg in 1882, a Swiss citizen, and an employee of the Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company. The idea of preserving milk without the addition of sugar was made possible by his invention of a revolving sterilizer working with steam under pressure. Lacking sufficient support from his company to continue his work, he migrated, in 1884, to the USA and also obtained a patent for his invention in that country. In 1885, Mr Meyenberg was cofounder of the Helvetia Milk Condensing Company in the State of Illinois, and during the same year, he achieved the first successful manufacture of unsweetened condensed milk. The name of this product was changed to evaporated milk for a clearer distinction from sweetened condensed milk, a situation that prevails today.

It's not clear to me what terms were used in Indonesian (for one vs the other variety), but presumably the latest regulatory effort is to create a similar distinction. In any case, the clear intent of the regulator is to stop sugar-added condensed milk being sold as milk. Another reporting on the same from JakartaGlobe:

According to Damayanti Rusli Sjarif, the head of nutrition and metabolic diseases at children's health department of the University of Indonesia, condensed milk is used all over the world for producing pastries, cakes, ice cream, not as a milk substitute.

"In Indonesia, however, sweetened condensed milk is given to children and infants as an alternative to formula milk," Damayanti said.

Recent studies by Unicef, Asean and WHO concluded that one in eight Indonesian children is overweight, with a major contributing factor being the consumption of dense processed foods, including condensed milk.

More than 50 percent of sweetened condensed milk is just sugar, and 100 grams of it account for 18 percent of the recommended daily intake of carbohydrates.

Oddly, none of the 3 Indonesian news stories (in this Skeptics page) mention evaporated milk, so I'm guessing the latter might have very poor market penetration in Indonesia.

Australia and New Zeeland have a common standard for what constitutes condensed and what evaporated milk:

2.5.7—3 Requirement for food sold as condensed milk

(1) A food that is sold as condensed milk must:

      (a) be condensed milk; and

      (b) contain no less than 34% m/m milk protein in milk solids non-fat.

(2) A food that is sold as condensed whole milk and derived from cow’s milk must contain:

      (a) no less than 8% m/m milkfat; and

      (b) no less than 28% m/m milk solids.

(3) A food that is sold as condensed skim milk and derived from cow’s milk must contain:

      (a) no more than 1% m/m milkfat; and

      (b) no less than 24% m/m milk solids.

[...]

2.5.7—5 Requirement for food sold as evaporated milk

      (1) A food that is sold as evaporated milk:

      (a) be evaporated milk; and

      (b) contain no less than 34% m/m milk protein in milk solids non-fat.

(2) A food that is sold as evaporated whole milk and derived from cow’s milk must contain:

      (a) no less than 7.5% m/m milkfat; and

      (b) no less than 25% m/m milk solids; and

(3) A food that is sold as evaporated skim milk and derived from cow’s milk must contain:

      (a) no more than 1% m/m milkfat; and

      (b) no less than 20% m/m milk solids.

So yeah, they impose (lower) limits on milk solids/proteins and (upper limits) on milk fat (for some varieties), but I guess they just rely on the customary market distinction for not getting sugar into evaporated milk, because there's no specific sugar limit in that standard that I can see. So I'm guessing Indonesia has had a somewhat unique problem with the condensed milk (marketing), at least regionally.

Also, to some extent, the viral story in Indonesia reminds me of the plastic sold as rice stories, which turned out to be bogus.

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It's hard to answer for every product sold all over the world, but here's the ingredient list printed on a can of Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk:

condensed milk ingredient list

So, sweetened condensed milk in the US contains 1) concentrated whole milk, and 2) sugar.

Furthermore, in his well-known book On Food and Cooking, highly respected food author Harold McGee says of condensed milk:

Condensed or evaporated milk is made by heating raw milk under reduced pressure (a partial vacuum), so that it boils between 110 and 140°F/43-60°C, until it has lost about half its water. The resulting creamy, mild-flavored liquid is homogenized, then canned and sterilized. The cooking and concentration of lactose and protein cause some browning, and this gives evaporated milk its characteristic tan color and note of caramel...

He goes on to explain that sweetened condensed milk has sugar added, and that this reduces the available water to the point where bacteria cannot survive and the product doesn't even need to be sterlized.

That doesn't mean that some nefarious business hasn't been selling phony condensed milk in some market somewhere, but I think it does provide some evidence that condensed milk, whether sweetened or not, is expected to be made from milk.

Also, as Legion600's answer explains, the fact that sweetened condensed milk contains milk doesn't make it a healthy alternative to milk for children.

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    I'd in fact be very surprised if in places like the US and EU it were even legal to market a product as milk if it doesn't contain milk. In the EU at least that'd be illegal to do. – jwenting Jul 9 '18 at 5:01

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