Camel Milk, superfood. Mediterranean research project

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Nomadic traditions of Asia Minor and North Africa and European research meet to enhance the productions of a superfood still far from the spotlight, camel milk. Thanks to the Camel Milk project, in which Italy is participating through our FARE team (
Food and Agriculture Requirements
). As part of the larger program of initiatives coordinated by PRIMA, The Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area. An alliance of universities and research centers, public agencies and private operators that aspires to unite the peoples of the Mediterranean by developing synergies aimed at promoting improved living conditions and economic growth. Under the banner of socio-environmental sustainability, with a long-term perspective.

Camel’s milk. Rural traditions and production needs

Camel’s milk plays an essential role in the diet of some populations in North Africa and Asia Minor (starting with the Anatolian Peninsula), as part of millennia-old traditions. The first reason, of necessity virtue, is related to food supply security (c.d.
food security
) offered by a resilient mammal, capable of withstanding extreme weather conditions. Local communities have always appreciated the virtues of this food and the products derived from it, but have not been able to achieve suitable productions for their valorization on a larger scale.

The raw material still comes, for the most part, from nomadic peoples and small herds. Milk is generally consumed fresh, or processed into dairy products also for local consumption. The development of related supply chains postulates the development of good breeding practices and the development of production technologies, with the support of veterinarians and food technologists. In view of the production of pasteurized and long-life (UHT) milk and dairy products and cheeses that meet the highest food safety standards, in different areas of the Mediterranean.

Camel milk, nutritional and health-related properties

Nutritionally, camel milk contains vitamins C, B3, B5 (pantothenic acid), B9 (folic acid), and B12 in higher amounts than both human breast milk and cow’s milk. Compared to the latter are the contents of thiamine (B1), pyridoxin (B6) and vitamin E. Camel milk is also notable for its high concentration of antimicrobial factors with bactericidal and fungicidal action (immunoglobulins and lactoferrin, lysozyme).

The international scientific community has also shown the role of camel milk in the treatment of diabetes because of its ability to:

– Reduce blood glucose levels, due to its high concentration of insulin and its insulin-like protein’s ability to overcome acid degradation in the stomach,

– limit complications of diabetes by reducing blood cholesterol levels, improving liver and kidney function, reducing oxidative stress, and facilitating wound healing. (1)

Camel milk‘s higher affinity for breast milk (LM), compared with cow’s milk (LV), also suggests better digestibility and lower allergenicity to milk proteins in susceptible individuals. Camel’s milk results in fact:

– Like LM, lacking β-lactoglobulin. One of the main allergens involved in cow’s milk protein allergy (APLV), in which, on the other hand, it constitutes 50% of the total seroproteins,

– characterized by the presence of α-lactalbumin, which is its main seroprotein. (2)

Studies on the composition and therapeutic potential therefore suggest how camel milk could be successfully used in human medicine to treat various diseases. Not only diabetes mellitus (DM) type 1 and 2 and milk allergy (APLV) but also autism, hepatic steatosis, Crohn’s disease and diarrhea.

PRIMA, the Mediterranean research and innovation program.

PRIMA(Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area) is a long-term partnership program on research and innovation. (3) Nineteen countries participate, with financial contribution from the European Commission, in accordance with the principles of co-ownership, mutual interest and benefit sharing. (4) With the aim of strengthening cooperation between researchers and innovators, public and private, to address growing social, economic and environmental challenges.

The shared strategy aspires to mitigate the most serious problems currently found in the areas of food, health and wellness. Through the development of solutions that can improve the living conditions of populations, especially in Low-Medium Income Countries (LMICs) where social inequalities are most pronounced. Also encouraging administrations and communities, businesses and citizens to the practical adoption of the tools developed. With a view to, among other things, reducing migration pressure.

Research is needed to develop new products and processes to increase the quality of Mediterranean foods by combining improvement of raw material composition with better use of innovative and soft production and processing technologies. The result will be a better nutritional quality of food products, as well as stable (micro) nutrient-dense ingredients, bioactive extracts, functional ingredients and new products‘ (FIRST, Annual Work Plan 2018).

In line with the Goals of Sustainable Development (Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs) defined by the U.N. General Assembly in Agenda 2030, the PRIMA program focuses on research and development of innovative and sustainable solutions in agriculture, water resource management in arid and semi-arid areas, food supply chains that can guarantee the universal human rights of access to food safe and nutritious as well as to drinking water And sanitary toilets.

Camel Milk, the research project

The Camel Milk Project was created with the aim of promoting the production, processing and consumption of camel milk and camel products in the Mediterranean basin, providing smallholders and small and medium-sized enterprises active in the sector with the necessary tools to ensure increased competitiveness, economic growth and job creation on both sides of the Mediterranean.

Eight countries are participating in the project-Spain, Algeria, Germany, Croatia, France, Morocco, Turkey and Italy-which is coordinated by the Institute of Agribusiness Research and Technology (IRTA, ES). The FARE(Food and Agriculture Requirements) division of our Wiise S.r.l. benefit company, the only Italian partner in the project, will integrate R&D with all legal, technical-regulatory, public relations and lobbying services in the agribusiness sector.

The specific objectives of this research phase are essentially three:

– improve camel milk production systems in Algeria and Turkey, bringing them closer to European standards of safety and quality in process organization. So as to set the basis for export to the EU in the short term,

– adapt to camel milk the technologies and production processes of fermented dairy products and various types of cheeses, now used on other pasteurized milks in Spain, France, Turkey and Algeria,

– define effective business models and market strategies that benefit each stakeholder in the supply chain involved ‘from camel to mug‘.

At the regulatory level, evidence of consumption of camel milk dairy products in Europe–in significant and detectable quantities–before 15.5.97 will be sought. (5). In the absence of evidence to this effect, the approval process for placing novel foods on the market will be activated. By resorting to the simplified procedure under Reg. EU 2015/2283 for traditional products from non-EU countries. Opportunities to submit dossiers for approval of appropriate health claims will be considered in the steps to follow.

Dario Dongo

Notes

(1) Roberto Miniero, Giuseppe Antonio Mazza, Ali Mohamed Mahdi et al. (2014). ‘Composition and therapeutic use of camel milk‘. Large Animal Review 2014; 20: 125-132 125

Roberto Miniero et al. (2016). ‘Camel milk: nutritional properties and therapeutic perspectives‘. Journal of Pediatric Immunology and Allergology, 2016; 3: 46-50

Roberto Miniero et al. (2018). ‘Can camel milk supplement insulin treatment in patients with diabetes?‘ Italian Journal of Diabetology and Metabolism 2018;38:3-11

(2) Idem c.s.
(3) See Italian Secretariat of Prima, http://www.primaitaly.it
(4) The PRIMA initiative was initiated by 11 EU member states (Croatia, Cyprus, France, Italy, Germany, Greece, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Slovenia, and Spain) and 8 non-EU countries. Of these, 3 – Israel, Turkey and Tunisia – are already associated with the Horizon 2020 program. The others are Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and Jordan
(5) See reg. EC 258/97, repealed by the subsequent reg. EU 2015/2283, on the subject of ‘Novel Food

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.