Okay, first of all, you may be asking, "rBGH? What the heck are you talking about?" Or you may be one of those neurotic moms (like me) who checks your milk cartons for any mention of it.
Well, rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone, aka rBST) is a genetically engineered hormone injected into some dairy cows to help them increase milk production.
Its use is highly controversial. Consumers and scientists alike are concerned about possible health risks -- for the cows and for humans -- like how rBGH-injected cows make milk with higher growth hormones, which in turn may be linked to breast and colon cancer.
Sounds a little dangerous, right? Well according to the FDA, "no significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rBST-supplemented and non-rBST-supplemented cows."
Oh really, FDA? "No significant difference"? Let's take a closer look at that milk.
Studies show that milk from rBST-injected cows has:
- Increased levels of Insulin Growth Factor-1, which has been linked to the breast and colon cancer I mentioned, among others
- Less protein and more fat due to hormone-included "negative energy phases"
- Higher somatic cell counts, which makes milk sour more quickly
By the way, these somatic cells are also known as pus. Ew.
In most states, when a dairy company wants to label their milk "rBGH-free" or "rBST-free," they have to add a disclaimer, "Not that there's anything wrong with that." Actually, they were forced to use that "no significant difference" quote from the FDA. But still.
In Ohio certain groups were trying to ban the use of "rBGH-free" labeling altogether. In other words, they didn't want consumers to know what they were drinking. There was a big court battle in Ohio and, in the end, dairy companies still have the right to label their milk rBGH-free. But even better, the court also ruled that the FDA's "no significant difference" finding is BALONEY!
That's right. In the state of Ohio the FDA has been called out for misleading the public.
Is this just the beginning? Will we start seeing more challenges to the FDA in favor of public safety? We can only hope.
Image via Striatic/Flickr