Associate Professor of Public Health at University College Dublin Patrick Wall told delegates attending today’s Global 500 event that dairy farmers are no longer in the food business.

“The reality is that milk producers are now operating within the health sector. Yes farmers will be expected to produce more food, more sustainably and at a price which consumers can afford. But this is only scratching the surface in terms of what the milk sector can offer in the future.

“For example, consider what is already happening where infant milk powders are concerned. The Irish dairy sector has, to its credit, identified this as a growth area and benefitted accordingly. But what about all of the other age groups in our society?

“The dairy industry has the potential to produce a nutritional solution to the challenge of osteoporosis, making ‘ninety the new sixty’, in terms of the lifestyle benefits that can be offered to older people.”

Professor Wall went on to point out that the last thing the dairy industry needs is to get bogged down in the continuing public debate regarding the nutritional benefits of offering cheese to young people.

“In many ways this is a side show,” he stressed. “Currently whey is a byproduct of cheese production. Within the next few years this situation will have been turned on its head. Whey is the super food of the future!”

But Patrick Wall is also conscious of the need for the milk sector to fully secure its supply chain. “And this challenge must be addressed from field to plate,” he further explained.

“One has only to look at what has happened within New Zealand’s dairy sector over recent years to find evidence of the horrendous implications associated with a major breakdown within the food supply chain. Here in Ireland, the horsemeat scandal became world news earlier this year. And prior to that the pork industry had to deal with the problems created by the dioxin contamination of animal feed.

“Stories of this nature take on a life of their own and when they happen it’s nothing but bad news for food processors and farmers.”

“Ireland’s dairy industry has a very strong global image. We must do everything to further to strengthen this further. Coming up with new and innovative foods is one thing. But ensuring that all of the required traceability procedures and processes are in place is an even greater priority for the dairy sector and the food industry as a whole.”

Pictured attendees at the Dairy Session at Alltech’s Global 500 in Dublin, Ireland