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Sunday, February 25, 1990 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Milk Getting Popular In Thailand

AP

BANGKOK, Thailand - Not long ago, many Thais thought milk made them sick and cheese was smelly stuff, but a younger generation is gulping down milk and devouring cheese-topped pizzas.

``I think the nutritional qualities of milk are well-understood here,'' said Mauri Uotila, of the Bangkok office of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. ``People here see tall European and American people drinking a lot of milk. I think, like all parents, they want taller children with stronger bones.''

In keeping with an Asia-wide trend, consumption of milk in Thailand has gone up 56 percent from 1986 to 1988, and cheese imports have more than doubled over the past three years.

It's quite a nutritional shift for a country where milk was once thought fit only for infants and young children.

But Thailand's milk consumption, averaging 9.4 quarts a year per person, is still the lowest in Southeast Asia. Japanese average an annual 75.5 quarts while Americans down 132 quarts, according to Att Senasarn, general manager for Nestle Products Inc. in Thailand.

The penetration of Western ways is also cited as a factor. Thousands of Thais return from studies in the United States with a taste for milk shakes, pizzas and yogurt.

Although the Thai dairy industry has been growing rapidly, it still produces only a third of the 500,000 tons of milk consumed yearly. The rest is imported.

Hard to find less than a decade ago, fresh milk now takes its place next to soft drinks at streetside stands in Bangkok. And grocery stores are stocked with a bright array of more than a dozen brands and types of sweetened, flavored, plain and low-fat milk.

Copyright (c) 1990 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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