This week Down Under

Study: Dairy avoidance in Australia is reaching dangerous levels

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

Related tags Milk Nutrition

One in six adult Australians choose to avoid milk and dairy, three-quarters of whom do so to relieve cramps, bloating or wind.

While far fewer participants in the Csiro study said they avoided milk because they didn’t like the taste or because it is too fattening, most who cited medical reasons did so without a diagnosis, leading to public health concerns for women in particular.

It means there is potential for nutritional deficiencies or imbalances, or the risk that an underlying health condition could be going untreated​,” Bella Yantcheva, a behavioural scientist at Csiro, Australia’s government research organisation.

Milk, cheese and yoghurt have various health benefits and are a good source of nutrients, including calcium, protein, iodine, vitamin A, riboflavin, vitamin B12 and zinc. 

Women especially need calcium from dairy and alternative sources throughout their lives to reduce the risk of osteoporosis. However, the study revealed that more women are avoiding milk and dairy foods than men.

Women aged 19-50 years are advised to consume 2.5 servings of dairy or dairy alternatives per day, increasing to four serves per day after the age of 50, according to official Australian dietary guidelines.

The study also revealed that the decision to avoid some or all dairy foods is influenced by a range of sources from outside medical practice such as the internet, media, friends or alternative practitioners.

Its findings follow similar results on wheat avoidance. There, the research team found that around ten times as many Australians than those diagnosed with coeliac disease avoided wheat-based foods.

Combined, around a third of dairy avoiders also steer clear of wheat-based foods.

The numbers show that cutting out significant, basic food groups isn’t a fad but something far more serious​,” said Yantcheva.

According to Australian dietary guidelines, dairy and grain-based foods are important for a balanced diet and contribute significantly to intake of fibre, protein and a wide range of essential vitamins and nutrients, on top of calcium in dairy’s case.

It’s not just about missing out on the food type being avoided and risking your health, but also possibly over-consuming other foods to compensate as well​,” said Yantcheva.

The research, carried out with Adelaide University, is published in Public Health Nutrition​.

More stories from Down Under…

Patties receives takeover bid from PE firm

Pattie’s Foods has received a A$230m bid from private equity firm Pacific Equity Partners to take over the Australian packaged food major.


According to Pattie’s, the proposal is non-binding, conditional and incomplete and there is “no assurance that the proposal will result in any formal offer being made​”.

The company, which was at the centre of a major recall last year amid concerns that a frozen mixed berries product from its Nanna’s brand was behind an outbreak of hepatitis A, has seen a drop in fortunes lately. 

In February, it reported a 12-point decline in profit in February, largely due to the hepatitis scare, though laboratory tests cleared the item of carrying the disease.

The manufacturer has also borne the brunt of furious competition among supermarkets in Australia, which have seen renewed focus on private labels to go in competition with brands owned by Pattie’s, including Nanna’s, Four’n Twenty and Herbert Adams.

Patties said that discussions with the private equity company were at an advanced stage, and urged shareholders not to take any action against the deal.

"The board remains confident in management's plans for growth in the core brands, and the business is experiencing strong momentum​," said chairman Mark Smith in a statement.

Regulator green-lights second food-safety phage

The antipodean food regulator has given its go-ahead for a second food-safety phage product by Netherlands-based Mocreos in Australia and New Zealand.


The decision to permit Salmonelex, which guards against Salmonella, comes after the earlier approval of Listex against Listeria monocytogenes.  

"The use of Salmonella phages to treat raw meat and raw poultry meat will reduce the exposure of the community to Salmonella from these foods, resulting in less illness​,” Fsanz said in its approval report for Salmonelex. 

This will reduce the burden on government to treat illnesses associated with salmonellosis​.”

The bacteria is one of the most commonly reported causes of foodborne illness, with raw fresh meat and poultry often implicated as a source of infection. 

Fresh raw meat and poultry can be contaminated with Salmonella, which can cause illness if meat is consumed under-cooked or if cross contamination occurs during handling and preparation.

Salmonelex is misted onto surfaces and claims to kill Salmonella without any sensory. As a processing-aid, the certified organic phage does not require labelling. 

Phages are the world’s most abundant micro-organisms. Naturally present in high numbers in our bodies and the environment, they are harmless and do not affect a food’s taste. 

According to Mocreos, phage technology is set to replace antibiotics and chemicals in many applications, as it can be used for targeted control of only unwanted bacteria. Indeed, they kill roughly half of all bacteria on the planet every two days.

Related topics Research

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Dairy a major cause of climate change

Posted by Joe,

Maybe dairy avoiders are just people who want to do something personal to help in the battle against climate change. Avoiding dairy, milk, cheese and yogurt made from dairy cows is probably the best, most immediately valuable thing individuals can do.

Why? Because dairy cows are an enormous source of methane - from belching not from out the back end. Methane is more than 20X more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. The good news is that methane dissipates in ten years, a much shorter time frame.

In other words, by avoiding dairy, you can impact climate change in your lifetime. That, to me, is a healthy thing. Something to be encouraged.

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dairy avoidance

Posted by awake,

cows do not drink milk or eat cheese and survive very well without it.... eating lots of greens!

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