By Shanti Rangwani - Colorlines, winter 2001
milk? If not, then thank your lucky stars.
Because if you do, medical research shows
that you are likely to be plagued by anemia, migraine, bloating, gas,
indigestion, asthma, prostate cancer, and a host of potentially fatal
allergies--especially if you are a person of color.
Ignoring this, the government declares
that milk is essential to good health, subsidizes the milk industry to
the tune of billions of dollars, and requires milk in its public school
lunch programs. And celebrity shills sporting milk mustaches tell us
that milk is rich in proteins, calcium, and vitamins--and very cool to
They forget to tell you about the dangers
lurking in that innocuous-looking glass of white. Once criticized only
by naturopaths and vegans, now the health effects of milk are being
decried by many mainstream doctors. The supposedly hip milk mustache is
actually a creamy layer of mucus, live bacteria, and pus.
Former Chairman of Pediatrics at Johns
Hopkins University, Frank Oski, M.D. even has a book called Don't Drink
Your Milk which blames every second health problem kids suffer on
hormone-ridden commercial milk. Sixty percent of ear infections in kids
under six years of age are milk-induced, and milk consumption is the
number one cause of iron-deficiency anemia in infants today according to
the American Association of Pediatrics.
But milk is also a racial issue. Almost
90 percent of African Americans and most Latinos, Asians, and Southern
Europeans lack the genes necessary to digest lactose, the primary sugar
in milk. The milk industry's response is classic: they have launched new
campaigns arguing that non-whites can digest milk if they take in small
sips during the day. There is a burgeoning industry worth $450 million a
year churning out products designed to minimize lactose intolerance.
Lactose intolerance is the most common
"food allergy," but to call it an allergy is to take a white-centric
view that trivializes the fact that most of the world's people are not
biologically designed to digest milk.
Milk does no body good, but for the vast
majority of the world's people--people of color--it is a public health
No other animal drinks cow's milk, not
even calves once they are weaned. The late Dr. Benjamin Spock, the
U.S.'s leading authority on child care, spoke out against feeding "cow's
glue" to children, saying it can cause anemia, allergies, and diabetes
and in the long term, will set kids up for obesity and heart disease,
the number one cause of death in this country.
Most of milk's much-vaunted protein is
contained in casein--which is also a raw material for commercial glue.
Undigested, it simply sticks to the intestinal walls and blocks nutrient
The mainstream media and the government
ignore the medical studies showing that milk is a serious health threat,
in part because people of color are the main victims. The
institutionalization of racism is highlighted by U.S. Department of
Agriculture spokesperson Eilene Kennedy's statement on milk, that the
government's recommended food pyramid is intended for "the majority of
Americans. It doesn't communicate to all Americans."
The USDA continues to require that school
lunch programs include milk with every meal, and recommend that we glug
milk for calcium, even though Harvard studies show an increase in
osteoporosis and bone-breakage in people who consume milk. It says we
should drink milk to prevent heart disease (and is echoed by Larry King)
even though saturated fat constitutes 55 percent of milk solids.
The dairy lobby perpetrates lies to
ensure its profits. It benefits directly from the exaggerated support
prices the government shells out for this "health food." The government
pays over a billion dollars a year for surplus butter. A General
Accounting Office (GAO) study concluded that a reduction in the
government price support system would have netted consumers savings of
$10.4 billion from 1986 to 2001. And the USDA pays inflated prices to
purchase dairy products for both the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
and federal school lunch programs--milking the taxpayers and actually
getting them to pay for poisoning 26 million school kids.
The milk lobby has whipsawed its way into
the highest echelons of power. Staffers under Richard Nixon were
indicted for accepting $300,000 from the dairy lobby for making milk
part of the school lunch program.
Dr. Robert Cohen of the Dairy Education
Board, a nonprofit organization dedicated to exposing the milk lobby,
contends that the dramatic 52 percent rise in asthma deaths among
minority kids in New York coincided with the surplus milk, cheese, and
butter pumped into them under the USDA's free school lunch and breakfast
giveaway programs. The incidence of asthma deaths may be even higher
since asthma is not a reportable disease, and asthma deaths are
sometimes certified as cardiovascular disease.
There is also a direct link between milk
consumption and prostate cancer among African Americans, who have the
highest incidence of this disease in the world. A study in Cancer has
shown that men who reported drinking three or more glasses of whole milk
daily had a higher risk for prostate cancer than men who reported never
drinking whole milk.
The controversial Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH)--banned
in most countries--is pumped into U.S. milch cows to increase annual
yield (50,000 pounds of milk per cow today compared to 2,000 pounds in
1959). Milk from cows treated with BGH is likely to contain pus from
their udders since the hormone leads to mastitis, or udder infection.
BGH use results in a tumor-promoting chemical (IGF-I) that has been
implicated in an explosive increase of cancer of the colon, smooth
muscle, and breast.
The antibiotics dairy farmers use to
treat BGH-caused infections in cows appear in their milk and greatly
hasten human tolerance to most antibiotics, a potentially
life-threatening state of affairs. The Center for Science in the Public
Interest reports that 38 percent of milk samples in 10 cities were
contaminated with sulfa drugs and other antibiotics.
A fightback is beginning. Protesters
picketed New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's planned milk promotion
campaign with a photo of the mayor wearing a milk mustache over the
caption, "Got Prostate Cancer?" Giuliani (who, like his father, has
prostate cancer) dropped the campaign. And doctors from the Physicians
Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) persuaded Washington, D.C.
Mayor Anthony Williams not to declare May 11 as "Drink Chocolate Milk
Day" by presenting evidence that milk is harmful, especially to people
The PCRM--composed of some of the leading
doctors in the U.S.--has campaigned extensively in the health and
consumer press and led a successful legal effort in 1999 to make dairy
products optional in the federal food guidelines. The campaign was
supported by a number of prominent civil rights organizations and
leaders, including the Congressional Black Caucus, the NAACP, Martin
Luther King, III, Jesse Jackson, Jr., the National Hispanic Medical
Association, and former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders.
The dairy lobby remains cozy with most
medical practitioners to perpetrate its "drink milk" propaganda.
However, not one of the 1,500 papers listed in Medicine that deal with
milk points to its goodness--only to the pus, blood, antibiotics, and
carcinogens in milk, and the chronic fatigue, anemia, asthma, and
autoimmune disorders milk consumption causes.
The time has come for the milk industry
to face the kind of scrutiny that the tobacco companies face today.
Meanwhile, discard the moo juice.
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