Set the Record Straight How to respond to consumers'' questions

April 5, 2009 07:00 PM

Consumers are scrutinizing labels but often don't know the facts.
Sooner or later, perhaps at the grocery store or post office, a concerned consumer will come over and ask, "Why do you put antibiotics in milk?”

Americans love cheeseburgers and ice cream, but they don't always understand how dairy foods are produced or that strict safety standards govern the industry. That lack of knowledge might explain how a California legislator could introduce a bill in February to prohibit the state's schools from serving poultry or meat products treated with antibiotics.

While dairy insiders believe it will fail, the proposal seems to exploit widespread misperceptions about food products. Concerns about antibiotics and hormones are especially common, as they're often highlighted on product packaging.

Here are some facts to help set the record straight the next time you're asked about your dairy's products.

Q Are there really hormones in milk? Is this harmful?

A Hormones are present naturally in all milk. While some producers use a supplemental hormone for their cows, the safety of this use has been affirmed and reaffirmed by leading health and agricultural organizations.
—American Dietetic Association

Q Do hormones in milk cause early puberty in girls?

A There is no scientific evidence to support the notion that the hormone supplement rBGH (rBST) affects human growth and development. The concentration of hormones in cow's milk is minimal relative to the level of normal human hormone production, and therefore of little physiological significance.
—Utah Dairy Council

Q What about all those antibiotics in milk?

A Antibiotics are never added to milk. All milk is tested to ensure that antibiotics used to treat cows are not present in milk.
—Center for Global Food Issues, "Milk Is Milk” campaign

A Sometimes it's necessary to treat cows with antibiotics, just as humans sometimes need medication. A cow being treated for illness is separated from the milking herd to ensure its milk does not go into the milk supply. Milk and dairy products are among the most tested and regulated foods in this country. All milk is strictly tested for antibiotics on the farm and at the processing plant. Any milk that tests positive is disposed of immediately and does not get into the food supply.
—Dairy Management Inc.

Q Is organic milk healthier than other milk?

A There is no conclusive scientific evidence that organic food, including milk, is superior with regard to food safety or nutrition. Organic and regular milk contain the same nine essential nutrients that make dairy products an important part of a healthy diet.
—Utah Dairy Council

Bonus content:

National Dairy Council

Debunking Dairy Food Myths- Fact Sheet

Dairy Farming Today

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