Drink milk, glow green… what?

I saw an ad for Devondale long life milk on TV recently which really bothered me. You can watch it on Devondale’s YouTube here. It features a young girl, with a fluorescent green glow going about her daily activites at home and school. At the end of the ad, we are supposed to believe that she’s somehow taken on this green glow through drinking milk which contains preservatives.


I think it’s very misleading, and it makes me uncomfortable for a number of reasons.

  1. The prevalence of glow-in-the-dark radium/phosphorus products around 100 years ago has cemented the ‘green glow = radioactivity’ myth into popular culture. In fact, radium alone does not emit the green glow, it must be mixed with phosphorus and when the radium gives off alpha particles, it stimulates the emission of light from the phosphorus atoms. ‘Radiation’ (alpha and beta particles and gamma rays) is actually invisible. Most importantly though, NONE OF THIS HAS ANYTHING TO DO WITH MILK OR PRESERVATIVES.
  2. Devondale are piling on the parental guilt in this ad with the line “what are you feeding your kids?”  As if parents don’t get enough guilt trips from the media and society already, now Devondale want to scare them off letting their kids drink milk? Of all the drinks available for kids (or anyone) to consume, milk is probably the second healthiest option after water.
  3. Milk sold in Australia, including long life varieties, DOES NOT EVEN CONTAIN PRESERVATIVES!
  • The shelf life of milk is extended by increasing the temperature at which it is pasteurised, and the environment in which it is packaged. By heating to a higher temperature, and packaging in a sterile environment, there is a huge reduction in the amount of organisms in the milk which over time contribute to its ‘going off’. Long life milk products do not contain preservative additives to extend the shelf life.
  • I’m not an expert on the food standards code but my interpretation of the relevant section is that antioxidants and preservative additives are permitted in milk, so long as they are included in the ingredients list on the container. I conducted a small survey at a local supermarket of long life milk products, and none of them listed any preservatives. Whether they are not used because they are simply not required (due to the high temperature treatment), or consciously excluded due to consumer concerns is something that can only be answered by the dairy industry.


I do feel for the independent dairy producers, given the ongoing pillaging of their industry by the  supermarket milk wars, but this, and the ridiculous permeate marketing ploy, is a dishonest way of advertising their product. Not cool Devondale, not cool.

Books in Scientia – Periodic Tales

This is the first instalment of Books in Scientia; short reviews of books I’ve recently read.  

periodic tales

Title and author

Periodic tales, by Hugh Aldersey-Williams

What’s it about?

It is a personal and historical account of the discovery and practical applications of many of the chemical elements.

What are the good bits?

The most engaging parts of the book are where the author attempts to recreate some of the historical experiments which led to the discovery of new elements. The skill and perseverance of the historical chemists is made startlingly clear through the author’s failures. Because if you’re gonna try and extract phosphorus from collecting several hundred litres of your own wee, you kinda want it to work.

What are the not-so-good bits?

The pictures (there aren’t that many), are poor quality and may as well not have been included.

What does it say on page 181, line 5?

As early as the mid-eighteenth century fireworks were advertised as offering proper rainbow colours.” And who doesn’t love a book that contains fireworks?!

Who should read it?

Anyone with an interest in chemistry, history of the elements or popular science narratives.

How good is it?

I’m giving Periodic Tales 4.5 out of 5 test tubes.

4.5 test tubes


Books in Scientia

I’m starting a new category of posts where I’ll be posting short reviews of books that I’ve read. If you are one of the 4 or 5 regular readers of this blog, you will of course be shocked to discover that most of the books I read are science non-fiction, with a heavy bias towards chemistry.



Later this week I will post the first review, of ‘Periodic Tales’ by Hugh Aldersey-Williams. Suggestions for new reads are also welcomed.

And don’t worry, I won’t be reviewing any of the books in the picture above – chemometrics?!?! C’MON, HELL NO. EVEN I AIN’T THAT NERDY.