Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Healthy Change #1: Buy rBST/rBGH-free

As I mentioned in previous posts, one huge and very positive side effect of Abigail's peanut allergy is that I've started reading food labels and researching the food our family consumes.  It's a task that feels quite over-whelming at times!  I'm learning so much about how the quality of food we eat impacts us day to day from allergies/asthma and ADHD to long term diagnosis of diseases and cancer.  I'm also finding that big business and our government aren't doing much, if anything to protect us. 

There is no way I can cover in a couple of posts all of the information out there that should make us all consider every bite of food we put in our mouths.  I can however try to summarize briefly a few of the top changes you can make for yourself and your family that will have the biggest impact on your overall health.

Change #1:  Buy rBST/rBGH free dairy products.

What is rBST/rBGH?  In the 90's Monsanto derived an artificial growth hormone using DNA technology.  This hormone (rBST/rBGH, hereafter referred to as simply rBGH) is given to cows to increase their milk production by about 10% (I've also seen it as high as 20%).  According to GreenerChoices.org, as of 2007, approximately 17% of dairy cows are given this hormone.  The FDA has ruled this hormone safe, but it has not been approved for use in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and all 25 members of the European Union. 

What are the affects?  I turned to the Cancer Prevention Coalition for an explanation on the impact of rBGH on IGF-1 which is a normal growth factor in both cows and humans.  However, excess levels of IGF-1 are linked to cancer, specifically breast, colon and prostate cancer.  The rBGH hormone causes cows to produce more IGF-1 which is then further increased by the pasteurization process.  IGF-1 is easily passed through the human intestines into the bloodstream where it can promote transformation of, for example, normal breast cells to breast cancers.  Personally, that's enough for me, but there's more and it's just gross.  The rBGH hormone increases the rate of mastitis, an udder infection.  According to the Cancer Prevention Coalition, "industry data shows up to an 80 percent incidence of mastitis in hormone-treated cattle, resulting in the contamination of milk with significant levels of pus."  Yuck...pus!  Guess what is then given to cows to treat the mastitis.  Yep...antibiotics.  Guess who then consumes the antibiotics.  Yep...us.  Cancer, pus and harmful antibiotics....

What can you do?  Buy rBST/rBGH free products.  Organic milk is rBGH-free, free of pesticides or antibiotics and is more expensive than conventional rBGH-free milk.  You can expect to pay $1.00 to $3.00 more for organic and $.50 to $1.00 more a gallon for rBGH-free conventional.  On average, that's anywhere from $25 to $150 more per year depending on the product you choose and your market.  I waiver back and forth between organic and conventional rBGH-free milk.  A lot depends on where I'm shopping and what's on sale.  Yes, we're paying more now for milk, cheese, yogurt and other dairy products, but we see it as an investment in our health.

Lastly, manufacturers are prohibited from completely labeling the benefits of rBGH-free.  We can thank Monsanto and their influence with our government for that.  A manufacturer may label a product rBGH-free if they also include a statement that there is no significant difference found between milk produced with rBGH and milk not produced with it.  Some states have even stricter laws and many brands don't include anything about being rBGH-free.  For a long time, I didn't purchase any of Trader Joe's cheeses because their label just had the statement that there is no significant difference.  I assumed that meant it was not rBGH-free.  It's very confusing especially now that more and more brands are switching to rBGH-free.   I've attached a link at the bottom for a NC rGBH-free buying guide.  You can find a state specific guide by doing a Google search.

So, drink a big glass of rBST/rBGH-free milk and think about how much healthier you already feel!

Don't forget to enter my blender give-away!

For more resources:

Here are some other sites/articles if you would like to do some additional reading:
The Cornucopia Institute - Dairy Brand Scorecard - It rates dairy farms on a 0 to 5 cow rating, 5 cows being the best, 1 cow means better than conventional milk, but not by much and 0 cows are the "Ethically Deficient".  A couple of 1 cow farms included on the list supply BJ's, Costco, Lowe's Foods (Full Circle), Target and Trader Joes.  Harris Teeter and Stonyfield got 3 cows and Whole Foods got 4. Definitely a must see if you are considering switching to rBGH-free.
The Cornucopia Institute - Reports on Promiseland Livestock's suspension from organic commerce.  Read how that impacts Wal-Mart, Costco, Target, Safeway and Harris Teeter milk.
The Cornucopia Institute - Reports on how Dean Foods is quietly shifting their products away from organic to "natural".  If you purchase Horizon Organic or Silk soy milk, you need to read this article.
Greener Choices by Consumer Reports
Scribd - List of NC Brands and Products with no rGBH.  They have lists for other states as well.
Organic Consumers Association - New study shows organic milk is linked to fewer allergies, eczema and asthma.


Melanie said...

Don't forget to enter the give-away!

Anonymous said...

How was your daughter diagnosed with peanut allergy at 18months?

My daughter had a reaction to a PB&J sandwich about that age and we were told that the allergy tests were not reliable at that age and that we needed to wait until she was at least 5yrs to test. We treated her as if she was allergic, kept epi pens, notified care providers and schools etc.

When she was 6 we had her tested. While she was allergic to cats, she was not allergic to peanuts.

She has had peanuts many times since then, and though she still has a ingrained dislike of peanut butter will have a Reese's cup from time to time.

Unknown said...

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