The Lactose Intolerance Clearinghouse Has Moved.

My old website can be found at www.stevecarper.com/li I am no longer updating the site, so there will be dead links. The static information provided by me is still sound.

For quick offline reference, you can purchase Planet Lactose: The Best of the Blog as an ebook on Smashwords.com or Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com or a whole lot of other places that Smashwords is suppose to distribute the book to. Almost 100,000 words on LI, allergies, milk products, milk-free products, and the genetics of intolerance, along with large helpings of the weirdness that is the Net.

I suffer the universal malady of spam and adbots, so I moderate comments here. That may mean you'll see a long lag before I remember to check the site and approve them. Despite the gap, you'll always get your say. I read every single one, and every legitimate one gets posted.


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Another Victory for Ignorance

Is there any actual evidence that the growth hormone rBST (recombinant Bovine SomatoTropin -- also known as rBGH: recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone) causes harm to anyone? No.

Can milk be made that is hormone free? No. All milk, including mother's milk, has natural hormones. All cow's milk naturally includes BST. (rBST is a synthetic hormone that is added to increase milk production.)

But a pervasive fear campaign by anti-milk forces have convinced consumers that hormones are dangerous. California Dairies Inc., California's largest dairy cooperative, will stop using rBST as of August, 2007.

It shouldn't be needed, but in the internet world I've learned that the obvious must be said in so many words: I am not in favor of putting untested chemicals into our foods. At the same time I try not to worry about "chemicals" added to foods. Every substance is a chemical, and all too often the word chemical is thrown around simply to frighten people who should know better.

Is rBST untested? Hardly. Wikipedia notes that the:

World Health Organization, American Medical Association, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the European Commission Directorate for Consumer Health and the American Veterinary Medical Association have all found milk from rbST-supplemented cows to be safe for humans and the same as milk from cows not receiving these supplements.

There are no comparable groups who have found that bBST is unsafe, although Health Canada has not approved its use on the grounds that its safety has not been proven rather than any specific health risks it has found in humans.

So why is the California group stopping the use of rBST? Natalie Otis in the Auburn Journal says it's simply because consumers have gotten scared by the controversy.
Regardless of the hormones in milk, Bradley said that there many milk alternative brands on the market as consumers have voiced their needs and manufacturers have responded.

It is simple supply and demand.

"With more people lactose intolerant and impacted by allergies the industry has created options," Bradley said.

Producing options for those with lactose intolerance, a known problem with a known cause and a known cure, is not at all the same as changing milk production based on vague and unproven fears. (Not to mention that no milk at all anywhere is made for people with cow's milk protein allergies.)

Is rBST so unequivocally safe that it is no longer being investigated? Not at all. Research continues daily, even though the FDA approved its use on cows as far back as 1993 and has not changed its stance. It may be that more careful or focused studies will show that rBST create health concerns.

Real health concerns are a true industry problem, and I'm happy to crusade against them at any time. What's in the minds of people today, however, is anything but real:
Kim Bradley, manager at Sunrise Natural Foods in Auburn, said a large percentage of the health food store's customers are searching for organic milk that is free of added hormones.

"I can't say exactly, but I know that milk sales are a big part of the business," she said.

Bradley explained that her customers have expressed that they are concerned about the milk and what hormone-laden products can do to growing children.

"Consumers are worried that the use of drugs is harmful to infants and young children who are still developing," she said. "Consumers don't want to introduce steroids into young bodies."

Bradley explained that another concern is that the hormone RBST reduces body fat and that body fat holds toxins. She is concerned that toxins could be present in the milk supplied by the injected cows.

Toxins? "Toxins" is a scare word, pure and simple. As soon as you read or hear anyone talking about "toxins" in the body or the need to purify the body of toxins, run the other way. Any product that claims to purify your body of toxins is a scam, based solely on scary-sounding propaganda.

I've found a site that appears to give good information about rBST. The site is rbstfacts.org. Its claim is that:
rbSTFacts.org neither endorses nor opposes the use of rbST. Its only goal is to provide a clearinghouse of scientifically-validated information about rbST.

Maybe. The site is owned by DeLaunay Communications, Inc., a Seattle-based PR firm that does work for many large corporate clients including the "Cooking with Kids" site and program of the Dairy Farmers of Washington. And the site:
was developed as a collaborative project by the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) and the Washington Dairy Products Commission (WDPC), a Washington state agency.

No question that RBSTfacts.org is not an anti-milk propaganda site. How neutral you find it will depend on your outlook. Still, there's a huge amount of information, links, and resources there.

I like research. I like facts. I like information. "Better safe than sorry" sounds good in theory and is often the best course to take in fact. There are already so many known dangers to the food supply that we can hardly argue for adding any others.

But disinformation, propaganda, and scare tactics about our food is not the way to go. Taking perfectly good food off the market or banning the possibility of cheaper and more abundant foods because of unproven science and distorted facts is just as harmful to the world in the long run.

Let's think carefully about our foods and make good decisions about what and how we eat. Let's not give in to ignorance. Educate yourself. Be the wisest consumer you can be.

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