Testing Solutions for the Lactose Intolerant

lactose intolerance

An estimated 68 per cent of consumers worldwide have a low ability to digest lactose. Lactose intolerance is an uncomfortable dietary restriction that affects the ability to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and dairy products.

The intolerance occurs when the intestine does not produce enough of the lactase enzyme which breaks down lactose so the body can absorb it. After it is diagnosed, there is no cure, only management of the symptoms.

According to medical research, the most effective treatment for lactose intolerance is to regulate the diet in accordance with a health care provider to reduce or eliminate lactose consumption. 1

Demand for lactose-free dairy is expanding and food testing laboratories need to be able to test dairy samples efficiently. Both the equipment and the consumables used in the process are critical to obtaining accurate results.

Jeff Rohrer, the Director of Applications Development at Thermo Fisher Scientific in Sunnyvale, California, notes that the traditional methods of testing milk for lactose are not as accurate or quick as using new technologies such as Ion Chromatography (IC) and High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC).

“The traditional techniques were enzyme and colour-metric based and very labour intensive,” says Jeff. “In these methods, we treat with enzymes in a way that converts the lactose to a coloured compound that we then measure.”

However, this process is often not sensitive enough to detect trace lactose and there can be interferences that cause ‘false positives,’ explains Jeff.

“With new technology, modern methods are more sensitive, automated, and directed toward detecting exactly that compound,” asserts Jeff.

Additionally, the standard for a lactose-free classification “varies country to country,” he explains.

“In France, to define something as lactose-free it has to be 0.01% lactose or less,” he highlights. “While in Germany, it’s 0.1 per cent, which is ten times higher.”

Since low levels of lactose are difficult to determine through traditional methods, countries like France and Germany are looking at more advanced methods like IC or HPLC.

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  1. John Hopkins Medicine, “Lactose Intolerance”


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