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Milk May Endanger Your Health, and the Dairy Industry Knows It

A mutant protein linked to major diseases has invaded the world's dairy supply, including, most likely, the jug of milk in your fridge.

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The lack of direct proof of a link between A1 milk and any diseases -- which only human trials could produce -- has been latched onto by the A1 defenders.

There's "not sufficient evidence for the claims being made by the marketers of A2 milk," I was told, via e-mail, by the National Dairy Council's Stacey Stevens. "Reviews of the science to date confirm there's no reason to think A2 milk might have health benefits beyond those of regular milk."

This statement seems to dodge the fact that the issue I had asked her about isn't the supposed health benefits of A2 milk, but the possible health risks of A1 milk.

Stevens responded to my initial query promptly, but I received no response when I asked her to clarify the Dairy Council's position by agreeing to the statement, "There is no reason to think that A1 milk might have health risks."

Stevens' response is typical from the dairy industry. Woodford thinks it's a result of fear that the public will get scared off all milk.

"We're comfortable that all milk -- A1 milk, A2 milk -- is really good for you, and you should keep drinking it," said Carole Inkster of the New Zealand Food Safety Authority in a New Zealand television report on A2 milk. Fred Brenmuhl, of New Zealand Federated Farmers responded to the potential dangers of A1 milk by saying, "Stopping the consumption of milk products is probably more dangerous than anything else."

In May 2007, A2 Corp. began marketing A2 milk in the U.S. produced by Prairieland Dairy in Nebraska. But in December 2008, the company temporarily discontinued its U.S. marketing efforts in order to rebrand and relaunch A2 milk products more broadly.

In the meantime, if you wish to avoid A1 beta-casein, you have a few options: Milk from goats and sheep doesn't contain A1 beta-casein.

Dairy products made from milk fat, like butter, don't contain A1 beta-casein, even if the milk they were made from did. The jury is still out on the A1 content of cheese and yogurt.

Beyond the one-time expense and inconvenience of switching their herds, Woodford says there is little for the dairy industry to fear in the possibility that A2 milk is safer, and he regrets the industry continues to view the issue as more of a risk than opportunity.

Although frustrated, he isn't completely surprised, even at resistance from within the scientific community. He cites many examples of slow acceptance of new medical ideas, including Robin Warren's 1979 discovery that stomach ulcers are caused by bacteria.

Warren received the Nobel Prize in 2005, Woodford writes, but in 2000 "the work was still being described as 'controversial.' "

Ari LeVaux writes a syndicated weekly food column.

 
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