Friday, July 24, 2009

Final Draft of "Milk: The Perfect Food?

This article has gone through many changes and edits. This is the final draft that was submitted for publication.

Milk: The Perfect Drink?
by Christopher Sharits
re-submitted on 7-24-09

The one phrase that adults always tell children regarding strong bones, healthy teeth, and strong bodies is "Eat your vegetables and drink your milk." From the Food Triangle to high school health sciences, milk is pushed without question. "Milk; it does a body good" is a highly orchestrated myth. While milk may have been considered a wholesome drink around the turn of the 20th century, draconian advances in hormones and the institutional mechanized dairy farms of today have mutated a perceived staple. The dairy products of today likely contain a wide variety of harmful contaminants. The masquerade begins with the USDA recommendation that people drink three one-cup servings of dairy per day (that includes cheese and butter that have a concentrated equivalent). In the U.S., the average person drinks 23 gallons of milk per year (that does not include cheese and other dairy products). With a U.S. population of over 300 million people, that's more than 7 billion gallons per year.

In the early 1980's, the production of milk exceeded our demand due to competition from soda and bottled water, decreased consumption, and inflated government price support. In an attempt to correct the surplus, the Government passed the "Dairy Production Stabilization Act of 1983" that required milk producers to allocate 15 cents per hundred weight or $75 million dollars for a national campaign to teach and promote milk consumption. In 1990, the Government passed "The Fluid Milk Act" which increased the generic marketing campaign to around $200 million per year (Blisard, 1999). The most successful generic milk ad campaign, and what is possibly the best ad campaign ever, is the "Got Milk?" campaign created by Jeff Manning from the Goodby, Silverstein & Partners ad agency in 1993. The campaign was originally targeted towards the California market, but it quickly went national, international, and even won the 1994 Cleo "Best in Show" award for advertising.

According to the International Dairy Foods Association, today's U.S. dairy market is estimated to be $70 billion dollars per year. In an attempt to protect that market, most commercial milk is pasteurized in order to kill off harmful bacteria like Campylobacter, E. Coli, Salmonella, and Listeria. The heating and cooling process of pasteurization, first developed by Louis Pasteur in 1864, should kill most of the harmful organisms responsible for such diseases as listeriosis, typhoid fever, tuberculosis, diphtheria, and brucellosis. Still, there is a strong potential for cross contamination from unsanitary production and packaging facilities.

Even with pasteurization, U.S. commercial milk still contains dangerous contaminants . In 1937, the bovine hormone was recognized as an agent to increase a cow's milk production. In 1993, the FDA approved the sale of the synthetic bovine growth hormone, rBST (aka. rBGH), to increase milk production by 10% to 15%. The U.S. Dairy Association and U.S. Government agencies argue that the cows that are injected with rBST still produce safe milk. While independent tests have been inconclusive, it is widely believed that rBST may increase the risk of mastitis and foot problems in cows and certain cancers in humans. Many insightful countries including Canada, the European Union, Australia as well as New Zealand have outlawed the sale of rBST. In addition, Dean Foods, Kroger (parent of King Soopers), Kirkland (parent of Safeway), Lucerne, Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, Costco, and even Starbucks have discontinued the sale of rBST milk. In an attempt to turn the tide on the resistance towards rBST, Monsanto, the producer of rBST and rBGH, has, up to this point, successfully lobbied and curtailed the labeling of dairy products containing the synthetic hormone, thus, making it impossible for consumers to distinguish between rBST dairy or non rBST dairy products.

According to the USDA, today's dairy farms have to use antibiotics to protect their herds from mastitis and lameness. The USDA's list of various antibiotics used to treat dairy cows include Aminocyclitol, Aminoglycoside, Noncephalosporin beta-lactam, Cephalosporin, Florfenical, Lincosamide, Macrolide, Sulfanamide, and Tetracycline (Antibiotic Use on U.S. Dairy Operations, 2002 and 2007, 2008). Regardless of a dairy cow's health, it is fed antibiotics through the cow feed. While the FDA claims that the antibiotic traces in milk are at acceptable levels, opponents fear that this practice may also increase human resistance to antibiotics and result in increased allergic reactions. In regards to dioxins, a 2003 USDA research project concerning polychlorinated dioxins, furans, and biphenynls, reported that these toxic contaminants are concentrated in animal products and ultimately consumed by humans. The study determined that dairy cows fed contaminated feed excreted 30% of the digested dioxins in their milk (Dioxins and Other Environmental Contaminants in Food, 2003).

Milk can be contaminated with a variety of environmental infectious microbes including Bacillus cereus, Brucella, Campylobacter jejuni, Coxiella burnetii, E.Col 0157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes, Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Samonella, Staphylococcus aureus, and Yersinia enterocolitica (Koo, 2008). While pasteurization kills most of these microbes, cross contamination, process packaging, confined and horrid dairy cow living conditions can contaminate the general milk supply.

Clearly, our idealistic visions of happy fat cows grazing in rolling hills of tall grass, has been shattered by the horrendous living and sanitation conditions on the vast majority of dairy farms. In the early 1900's, over half of the dairy milk was consumed on the dairy and most, if not all, lacked the artificially injected bovine hormones and didn't have the need for so many antibiotics. Today, only 3% of milk is consumed on the host dairy. We are so disconnected from the realities of milk production, that we have turned a blind eye to the truth. Much like meat or poultry products, we prefer to purchase these nicely packaged foods without thinking about their origins. The contaminated dairy milk is basis for many foods like dry milk, butter, ice cream, cheese, yogurt, and many manufactured baking goods. One important point that people tend to overlook is the fact humans are the only species to drink another species' milk and we are the only species that consumes milk beyond infancy. Our delusional desire for milk is not only un-natural, it's dangerous.


"Antibiotic Use on U.S. Dairy Operations, 2002 and 2007." (November 2008). USDA/APHIS: info sheet PDF. Retrieved July 20, 2009. From

Blisard, Noel. (July 1, 1999) "Advertising's Influence: The Case of Dairy Products." Frozen Food Digest. Retrieved July 20, 2009. From

"Dioxins and Other Environmental Contaminants in Food." USDA/ARS 2003 Annual Report. Retrieved July 20, 2009. From

Koo, Ingrid, PhD. "Got Milk Microbes." (2008). Infectious Diseases. Retrieved July 20, 2009. From

No comments:

Post a Comment