Could UV help light up milk sales?

Published 28 July 16

Ultraviolet (UV) light treated milk containing increased levels of vitamin D has been authorised for sale in the EU. This was shortly followed by advice from the UK government suggesting some people may need to boost their vitamin D intake.

Studies have treated pasteurised milk with UV light to try to further extend shelf life, with the light also creating additional vitamin D in the product. Conventional pasteurised milk only contains trace levels of vitamin D, while UV-treated whole milk could contain up to 3.2 micrograms per 100g (see table below).

Public Health England (PHE) now recommends a daily vitamin D intake equivalent to 10 micrograms. Vitamin D can be made in the skin via exposure to sunlight or consumed in the diet. It is difficult to know how much is made by sun exposure and, in the UK, we are reliant on dietary sources during autumn and winter. However, PHE found it was difficult to meet the 10 microgram recommendation through diet alone, so suggests people consider taking supplements.

This might mean a niche in the market which can be filled with a novel, vitamin D containing, UV-treated milk product, helping add value to liquid milk and promote its consumption. It’s also worth noting that the initial request sparking the Commission’s authorisation process came from a UK dairy company. 

Micrograms of vitamin D3 per 100g


Conventional pasteurised

UV-treated pasteurised

Whole milk


0.5 – 3.2

Semi-skimmed milk


0.1 – 1.5

 Source: The Dairy Council, European Commission