In June 2016, with circular no. 24708, the Italian Ministry of Health authorised cheese varieties with a lactose content below 0.1g/100g to display the “naturally lactose-free” label. Specific processing during the production of Parmigiano Reggiano creates natural microbiological conditions that ensure lactose is absent right from the first few days.
What is lactose?
Lactose is a complex sugar found in milk; it is composed of two simple sugars: glucose and galactose. The lactose-intolerant cannot produce the enzyme needed to digest this milk sugar. Lactose is digested by “lactase”, a natural enzyme that splits lactose into glucose and galactose during the digestive cycle.
Most mammals stop producing this enzyme after weaning, but humans can continue producing it: some for their entire life, others for less. Lactose intolerance in Italy affects around 40% of the population.
Why Parmigiano Reggiano is lactose free
Parmigiano Reggiano is made using milk, rennet, and salt. The lactose contained in the milk is naturally fermented by the lactic bacteria microflora during the first 48 hours of processing. This process is called “lactic fermentation”, whereby naturally present lactic bacteria transform the sugar (lactose) into lactic acid.
That is why those intolerant to lactose can happily eat Parmigiano Reggiano, which is also recommended by nutrition experts for its beneficial properties: healthy and natural, easy to digest, high calcium and mineral content, additive and preservative free, ideal at any time of the day, and also particularly suited for special diets.