LEDs are damaging the nutrients in milk, says report

LED LIGHTING on supermarket shelves is reducing the nutritional value of milk and shortening its shelf life, according to a new report by researchers from Newcastle University.

Light-protected packaging could be a solution to the problem of nutritional depletion in milk. Picture: Roxanne Ready 2018

The report Milk: Light exposure and depletion of key nutrients, which is a review of the available scientific literature, shows that high-intensity lighting, such as that found in supermarket dairy cabinets, reduces essential nutrients found in milk, such as Vitamin A, Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and Vitamin D.

These nutrients are important components of a healthy diet, helping to prevent disease and support growth, but most consumers are unaware that light can significantly impact milk quality, taste and nutrition.  

After two hours of exposure to LED lighting – the type found in supermarkets – milk begins to lose vitamin A. After 16 hours, it has half the amount expected. The report also shows that riboflavin can decrease by 28 per cent after just 20 minutes of indoor light exposure.

With around half of all milk remaining on display for at least eight hours, a significant proportion of milk on retail shelves is at risk of light damage if it does not have any form of light-protected packaging.

Dr Catherine Birch, Newcastle University, School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, told the press: ‘While milk is just one component of a healthy diet, it is an important one, providing people with many essential nutrients including vitamins, protein and minerals.

‘Many people do not realise that exposure of milk to indoor light can have a detrimental effect. The damaging effects of light can be influenced by the light intensity and time of exposure, so longer exposure to light causes milk to deteriorate faster.’

The report notes there are solutions to this issue including packaging which is designed to be light-protected as technology is available to design containers that reduce or prevent light damage.

Laboratory testing on milk found that while the light-protected milk retained almost all Vitamin B2 and lost only 16 per cent of Vitamin A while non-light-protected milk lost all Vitamin B2 and 93 per cent of Vitamin A.

Georgia Kollias, vice president, global brand development, at specialist packaging firm. Noluma, told Lux: "Our surveys indicate that UK consumers are increasingly concerned about the light damage issue in brands they love and trust, especially when nutritional content is affected, as is the case when dairy products are sold in inadequate packaging. 

‘Many consumers would choose light-protected milk for their families if they had that option so we're encouraging retailers and manufacturers to give them that choice.’


  • Learn more about retail lighting at LuxLive 2019, taking place at the LuxLive 2019 exhibition at London ExCeL on Wednesday 13 November and Thursday 14 November 2019. Entry is free - see the full programme and register for free HERE.

Comments 9

All electromagnetic radiation is damaging to some extent, which varies greatly depending on wavelength, exposure intensity and time and the illuminated matter. We all know this. In the case of milk, the question is rather: Why do we need transparent plastic containers that allow the light to reach the food, when opaque cardboard containers have been available for decades? The latter having a smaller carbon footprint to start with and are easier to recycle, right? Problem: Solved.

You know what LED luminaire doesn't spoil milk? Hubbell Industrial Lighting's SpectraLoc. When combined with the LED package, the optic absorbs wavelengths of light below 500 nanometers and retransmits at longer wavelengths. This process is called “Stokes Shift,” and it is what empowers the SpectraLoc LED highbay to convert blue light below 500 nanometers to nondestructive wavelengths. Read more about it here - http://bit.ly/SpectraLoc

Without any comparison for effects of flourecent lighting on milk, as used for decades before LEDs, and on specific wavelengths involved, this article is pretty much useless High color rendering LEDs with no far blue output are available, but do they solve the problem, or is marketing driving the degradation by demanding milk be in clear containers, illuminated with very cool white light? ContaIners that are nearly opaque, protecting the excellent nutritional Vue of milk in all lighting conditions should be a marketable solution. Like beer in brown bottles.

One peak of the absorbsion spectra of Ribovlavin matches the royal blue emission spectra used in LEDs. If you want to read about this, you can find it here: https://www.journalofdairyscience.org/article/S0022-0302(16)30131-X/abstract Is the milk problematic, depends on your milk producers package materials. All tests are only with milk. But we use mutch more different milkproducts. What happens to these - we do not know. Instead of same tests, they have to make new tests with other products. About different lamps. Only cool LED has so high peak in this area as ribovlavin absorbsion. If the LEDs are with CRI>90 or with warm colour, the peak is mutch more lower. But as milk and milkproducts are white, the shops like to light them with cool LEDs. It means you have to demand from producers better packages.

I concur with previous comments. Is this a matter of the light source or the intensity and spectrum. To make sense they must have tested other light sources as well. They should be able to identify what causes the depletion, then the study would have a value and make it possible to reduce or eliminate the impact.

Same research was always in Cornell institute in 2016. Not all packages let the light into package. For excample, I have measured Estonian different producers milk packages and can confirm, that in Estonia there is only 2-3% of light spectrum through the packages and blue light area is 0%. Unfortunately nobody tests yogurt, cottage cheese etc packages. What happens to these products. Does the light influence these products too? My measurements show that these packages let light in from some % to 33%

Can we have links to the research? how intense was the lighting? is it an accurate reproduction of the supermarket in terms of temperature, lighting level, spectrum etc.

That's a good question Charlie. I have never seen figures showing that the "blue spike" from LEDs is actually greater than the amount you get from a regular T5 fluorescent. Either of these will be far less than that from any daylight in the space.

Does this control for fluorescent or incandescent lighting, or does the headline single out LED when the truth is ANY light that milk is exposed to reduces the nutritional value?

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