Archive for March, 2009

US companies like Dannon (American subsidiary of Danone), General Mills (maker of Yoplait) will ban synthetic hormones in their dairy products. rBST, recombinant bovine somatotropin, is a syntetic hormone that increases milk production by cows in 16% according to the producer of the product, Elanco (the animal health arm of Eli Lilly).

Both companies said that they will phase out all products made from treated cows, selling exclusively products hormone-free. They claim the decision is not based in any scientific or health analysis, but simply because consumers demanded. (after all, FDA says that milk from treated cows is absolutely similar to milk from rBST-free cows).

Wal-Mart said their own line, Best Value (or something like that), is already rBST-free since last year. rBST has been used for 15 years, in the US and several other countries, but is forbidden in Europe and other places (I don’t remember now, but Google it, and they will come).

Posilac, as rBST is sold in US

Posilac, as rBST is sold in US


My opinion?

1) 15 years is not that long a period. We still don’t know the health consequences of having treated milk in the long term. And my totally un-scientific feeling is that increasing production by 16% per cow is a huge feat, and therefore the product may not be as innocent as people want us to believe. But again, no scientific basis for that.

2) There have been several changes in legislation is the US, like a bill to ban routine use of antibiotics in livestock that is being discussed in the Congress right now. Consumers are more and more concerned about food safety.

Perhaps the current climate will lead to substantial changes in the law, and if this happen, instead of having to deal with phase out schedules established by other people, these companies prefer to do it by themselves, their way and in their timescale. In this case, if legislation changes (as we don’;t know if it will really happen), Dannon, General Mills and Wal-Mart will be in a much better position.

Otherwise, why wouldn’t they keep one cheaper line of products from treated cows in their lines?


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Changes in FDA

“We are a nation built on the strength of individual initiative. But there are certain things that we can’t do on our own. There are certain things only a government can do.”

Like taking care of food safety, for example. The quote an excerpt of Obama’s speech last Friday, in which he established tougher food safety measures and appointed officially the new commissioners for US FDA. I think it’s good news to have two physicians known for their public health concerns to run the agency.

Let’s see what comes from that.

The new FDA commissioner is Margaret Hamburg, former New York Health Commissioner and a bioterrorism expert.


Hamburg’s deputy is Joshua Sharfstein, Baltimore Health Commissioner, who in 2007 campaigned to ban adverts of cough medicines for young children. 


PS: Am I the only who insists on mistakenly writing Margaret’s name as Hamburger, probably influenced by the fact that she is now running a Food and Drug agency?hamburger

PPS: The Department of Agriculture also closed a legal loophole that allowed cattle too sick to stand, known as “downed cows,” to be used as a source of food. That’s the moment you stop and think: “Wait, so it means sick cows are currently part of the food supply?”

Yes, they are. Everyday we learn something new and fascinating about this amazing country.


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No more than five

It’s good to see that I’m not the only nuts looking for the products with the fewest ingredients in the shelves.

Haagen Dasz has launched a series of ice creams with five ingredients only.


Skim milk, cream, sugar, egg yolks, coffee - it can't go wrong

Skim milk, cream, sugar, egg yolks, coffee - it can't go wrong

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