Lactose Characteristics and Applications

After water, the major component of whey permeate is lactose, which is typically about 4-5% in liquid whey permeate [45]. As such, the isolation and recovery of lactose is of great interest for this stream, where it can be used either as an ingredient or it can be converted into a variety of derivatives such as lactic acid, lactulose and galactooligosaccharides, amongst others.

While the major use of lactose in the US market (66%) is as ingredient in infant formula, a good portion (16%) is used in the confectionery industry. In the EU, it is used mainly in the pharmaceutical industry, in infant formula, and in various processed foods including meats [46].

The addition of lactose in infant formula aims at enriching the amount of lactose in bovine milk (4.6% lactose) derived formula to match the higher amount present in human milk (7% lactose) [46, 47]. Lactose is an attractive ingredient for the food industry due to its low hygroscopic properties and its flavorless characteristics, the latter of which allows it to be used as a filler and flavor enhancer. Additionally, its reducing end enables its participation in the Maillard reaction where important flavors and color compounds are formed [46]. On the other hand, its use is restricted in food products due to its limited solubility and lower relative sweetness [48].

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