You may be surprised to learn that American milk is banned in Europe. Why? Because there are so many health issues surrounding the production of American milk that European authorities — along with those in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada — have blocked these dairy imports.
Here are the 4 main health concerns with American milk.
1. American cows are injected with a growth hormone
American milk is genetically modified. Farmers inject the cows with a genetically engineered growth hormone called rBGH (or rBST) for the simple reason that they can produce up to 20 per cent more milk.
It should be noted that BST also occurs naturally in milk. This particular rBGH hormone increases the IGF-1 (insulin–like Growth Factor-1) levels in the milk. This IGF-1 is great for healthy growth in children, but studies at Harvard Medical School have found that there are serious health risks for adults. After studying over 30,000 nurses for a six-year period, they found some rather disturbing patterns. The nurses who had the higher levels of IGF-1 had a much greater risk of developing colorectal cancer. They also found that men with high levels of IGF-1 hormone were four times more likely to develop prostate cancer than those with lower levels. The most common source of this hormone is milk, fish, and poultry.
2. Pasteurization of milk is no guarantee of safety
The alarming fact is that these hormones are not destroyed in the milk pasteurization process. Even more worrying is the fact that injected cows can produce up to 10 times the levels of IGF-1 than they would if they were not treated.
Pasteurization does not get rid of these hormones and certain studies claim it may even increase the IGF-1 levels. Other studies show that pasteurizing removes most of the rBGH and BST hormones.
In 1994, the FDA said that there were no health risks associated with these hormones. However, there have been at least 8 national and international reviews on the health risks associated with them, as reported by The American Cancer Society. The public health debate rages on.
The rBGH hormone is produced by Monsanto under the name of Posilac. If this hormone were banned in the USA, then Monsanto’s profits and business would be severely affected — we are talking about billions of dollars here.
3. The rBGH hormone makes cows sick
Milk production in the US has changed drastically over the years. Cows no longer graze on pleasant meadows. Most of the milk we drink comes from intensive production systems which may have over 15,000 cows. Another alarming statistic shows that 50 per cent of milk produced in North America comes from 4 per cent of the farms. As you can imagine, these are owned by very large corporations. Naturally, the cows are stressed out and the injections of the rBGH makes them prone to illness. They are liable to suffer from mastitis, which is a painful bacterial infection in the udder. This results in the secretion of pus and blood which gets into the milk. Nobody knows how many cows are treated — or if they are ever treated at all.
4. Antibiotic treatments have problems in themselves
The sick cows, when spotted, are treated with antibiotics. This means that anyone consuming milk is likely to build up antibiotic resistance. The US figures are alarming. About 2 million US citizens get antibiotic-resistant infections every year and 23,000 people die from these infections. There is much concern, but it still needs to be fully proven that veterinary health is a major factor in antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
Meanwhile, the European Commission is well aware of AMR concerns and has issued several directives to safeguard human health. You can read here about how the Netherlands drastically reduced the use of antibiotics in animal health care and quickly saw a reduction in AMR infections in humans!
“Bacteria are like this river flooding over man.” — Lance Price, microbiologist at George Washington University
Are the American authorities being overly casual, or are the Europeans being too fussy? Despite the reasons given above, this is still a hot topic to debate.
If you are not sure who to believe and want to be more careful about the milk and dairy products that you are consuming, why not look out for the “NO rBGH” label?