Milk Claims

29 Nov 2007

Italian consumers have always been concerned about milk quality.
Americans have for some time been consuming milk and milk products from cows treated with the growth hormone ‘Recombinant Bovine Somatropine’ (rBST). It is used by 31 % of US farmers to increase output. But injecting animals with the hormone predisposes them to various diseases. The idea that this could affect consumer health is perhaps not too far-fetched.
Recently Monsanto, which invented and patented this hormone, reported to the Food and Drug Administration instances of what it claimed was misleading advertising by some producers. The company wanted this unfair activity stopped and current regulations to be amended.
The reason for Monsanto’s complaint was that some local companies were indicating on their labels and internet advertising that their products did not contain the hormone, in some cases even suggesting they were healthier. Imagine them publicizing such outrageous messages as ‘rBST FREE’ or ‘Hormone free’ which might cause consumers to think it was a healthier and safer milk, with a loss of business for the multinational, the hormone’s only authorized producer.
The FDA and the Federal Trade Commission, which deal with the regulation of advertising in the US, have replied that since there is no obligation to tell the public whether a product contains rBST or not, the producer is free to choose. Additionally, no ‘significant differences’ between the two types of milk have been shown in any scientific studies. The hormone is in fact the same as the one produced naturally in the animal’s body and laboratory tests have not shown any particular problems.
This is all true, but the tests were carried out by Monsanto technical staff and there have been no long-term studies. So can’t we say that hormone-free milk is healthier, can’t we at least think so? Even if we are not directly affected by all this, since the European Union hasn’t approved the use of rBST, we should remain alert, you never know.

First printed in La Stampa on November18 2007

Adapted by Ronnie Richards

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