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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

From 11 March 2002 Issue


Do boys and girls require animal cholesterol in their diets?

Is that what makes them grow up to become healthy adults?

I called the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and after about 20 calls that brought me full circle from one bureaucrat's desk to another, I found my way to a very courageous and wonderful man, Bill Wagner. Mr. Wagner's title is Child Nutrition Section Chief for Food Labeling.  Bill's phone number is 703-305-2590.

I like Bill. We spent some quality time on the telephone. I told him that I have three healthy, and that I want them to eat nutritious food, and that was why I was calling. In turn, Bill told me that he has twin six-year-old children, a girl and a boy.  We were having a grand old time until I got to the point of my call.

"Bill," I said.  By now we were on a first name basis.

"Why does a carton of milk contain RDA information for cholesterol.  Is USDA telling consumers to eat cholesterol to insure good health?"

Here's what Bill said to me.  I took careful notes.

"Based on a 2000 calorie diet provided on all retail products, the best way to look at the labeling information is that it's a guide for what you should consume in a day."

I interrupted.

"In other words, one needs to eat cholesterol?"

His response surprised me.

"Of course.  Everybody needs to eat some dietary cholesterol."

"How much?" I asked.

"I don't claim to be an expert," was his response.

"Well, you've got the title.  You're in charge, aren't you?"

Bill gave me some other names and numbers to call.

One was Dr. Peter Murano, the Deputy Administrator for the Special Needs Program at USDA.

Murano would not get on the phone with me, but his secretary, Vicki Majors, was kind enough to call me back with Dr. Murano's written statement. For the record, Dr. Murano believes:

"The body does require cholesterol, and it's important to supplement it, especially growing children. That's why it's listed on a carton of milk."

I would have asked Dr. Murano why it is that vegetarians who eat no animal cholesterol live ten years longer than those who enjoy eating saturated animal fat and cholesterol, but he did not call me back. However, you can ask the good doctor by EMAIL:

[email protected]

The buck (not Bambi) stops on somebody's USDA desk, and I identified that person as George Braley, USDA Acting Undersecretary for Food and  Nutrition. His phone number is 703-305-2062.

Mr. Braley's secretary is Lori, and she promised to get a response to me.  Her EMAIL address is:

[email protected]

Here is what I wrote to Lori on Friday, March 8, 2002.

"Dear Lori,

Please share this with Mr. Braley.

Cartons of milk contain RDA information.  I was surprised to read that people
require dietary cholesterol. I spoke with Bill Wagner and he confirmed this. I also spoke to Dr. Peter Murono's office, and his secretary (Vicki Majors) read me a statement from Dr. Murono stating that:

'The body does require cholesterol, and it's important to supplement it.'

My question to you is, do you concur?

If so, could you explain why the body requires dietary cholesterol.


Robert Cohen
[email protected]

That's it, folks. I have put in a total of six phone calls to George Braley.  Mr. Braley has no comment. I cannot say that I blame him. The man may be in charge, but what is he in charge of? If he admits that we do not need dietary cholesterol, then the misleading milk label should be changed.  If he admits that dietary cholesterol is required for human health, then he places his reputation on the line, opening himself up for criticism and ridicule from his colleagues.

Before giving up on USDA entirely, I reached their dietician, a pleasant guy by the name of Tim Vasquez.  Tim is 30-years-old, and has no kids, but we did have a nice conversation about cholesterol. He could not remember whether dietary cholesterol was required, but he promised to get back to me, and did.

Late last night, Tim EMAILED this to me:

  "The body makes the cholesterol it
   requires.  In addition, cholesterol is
   obtained from food."

As an interesting aside, our conversation turned to genetic engineering, bovine growth hormones, and calcium. I posed a challenging question to Tim.  Tim had agreed that bone modeling involves many minerals, including magnesium, so I asked him whether or not there was a magnesium crisis in America (beacuse the dairy industry represents that there is a calcium crisis). Tim told me to wait a second, as he had the answer to that question nearby.

He then asked whether I attended the "Calcium Summit."

"Tim, is that what you're going to reference?"

I recently wrote about the calcium summit and released some of the dairy industry's internal documents:

I explained to Tim that his supporting documents were prepared by the dairy industry, and that the Calcium Summit was one big dairy-sponsored "media blitz." I am not happy that USDA employees cite dairy industry propaganda when determining USDA protocols.

In the meantime, should you eat dietary cholesterol? The carton of milk says you should. Two USDA employees, one a doctor, also advise that you do so. Two thumbs up from USDA for dietary cholesterol. According to USDA, by not eating dietary cholesterol, vegans are compromising their health.

Despite the fact that just about every health practitioner cautions his or her patients on limiting their consumption of dietary cholesterol, USDA promotes the consumption of cholesterol by requiring RDA labeling on cartons of milk.

USDA makes cholesterol a good and necessary factor in the American diet. What is the current RDA for logic and intelligence?

Robert Cohen

Return to Animals in Print 11 Mar 2002 Issue

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