Iodine concentration of milk-alternative drinks available in the UK in comparison with cows' milk

Br J Nutr. 2017 Oct;118(7):525-532. doi: 10.1017/S0007114517002136. Epub 2017 Sep 26.


Iodine deficiency is present in certain groups of the UK population, notably in pregnant women; this is of concern as iodine is required for fetal brain development. UK milk is rich in iodine and is the principal dietary iodine source. UK sales of milk-alternative drinks are increasing but data are lacking on their iodine content. As consumers may replace iodine-rich milk with milk-alternative drinks, we aimed to measure the iodine concentration of those available in the UK. Using inductively coupled plasma-MS, we determined the iodine concentration of seven types of milk-alternative drink (soya, almond, coconut, oat, rice, hazelnut and hemp) by analysing forty-seven products purchased in November/December 2015. For comparison, winter samples of conventional (n 5) and organic (n 5) cows' milk were included. The median iodine concentration of all of the unfortified milk-alternative drinks (n 44) was low, at 7·3 μg/kg, just 1·7 % of our value for winter conventional cows' milk (median 438 μg/kg). One brand (not the market leader), fortified its soya, oat and rice drinks with iodine and those drinks had a higher iodine concentration than unfortified drinks, at 280, 287 and 266 μg/kg, respectively. The iodine concentration of organic milk (median 324 μg/kg) was lower than that of conventional milk. Although many milk-alternative drinks are fortified with Ca, at the time of this study, just three of forty-seven drinks were fortified with iodine. Individuals who consume milk-alternative drinks that are not fortified with iodine in place of cows' milk may be at risk of iodine deficiency unless they consume alternative dietary iodine sources.

Keywords: TMAH tetramethylammonium hydroxide; Diets; Iodine; Iodine deficiency; Milk; Pregnancy; Public health; United Kingdom.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Food, Fortified / analysis
  • Food, Organic
  • Iodine / analysis*
  • Milk / chemistry*
  • Milk Substitutes / chemistry*
  • Nutritive Sweeteners / analysis
  • Sample Size
  • Seasons
  • United Kingdom


  • Nutritive Sweeteners
  • Iodine