It’s been almost two decades since Neal Barnard, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), told us that giving kids meat and milk “is a form of child abuse.” And nearly 10 years have gone by since Barnard referred to cheese as “dairy crack.” Yet somehow, PCRM still gets quoted as if they really are a “physicians committee” that advocates “responsible medicine.”

While it’s no surprise to see Mark Bittman of the New York Times pushing an artificially concocted “great milk debate of 2012” in his columns, we’ll have to make sure USA Today gets the memo in the future. An article in the paper leads with Bittman’s anecdotal faux-research — supported by America’s fountain of wisdom, internet commenters — and calls in PCRM to recycle the same old arguments against milk.

PCRM gets easy treatment from the author: It is billed as “a non-profit that describes itself as promoting preventive medicine and advocates a vegetarian diet.” We think the note on PCRM’s vegan agenda is a bit understated — we’d prefer “a PETA-like non-profit that suggests that animal rights activism is tantamount to science.”

PCRM’s screed about milk marketing and Bittman’s random anecdotes are no match for actual science:

While there are drawbacks for some [lactose intolerance], the nutritional benefits of milk are clear, says Ruth Frechman, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, formerly the American Dietetic Association. “Milk is a nutrient-dense beverage; it’s relatively inexpensive and is an easy source of hydration,” she says. It contains protein, calcium, vitamin D, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin B12 and other vitamins and minerals.

Robert Post, deputy director of the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, says of the four nutrients that are of public health concern because Americans don’t get enough of them — calcium, potassium, vitamin D and fiber– three are in dairy foods. 

Animal rights talking points aren’t the same as actual research. PCRM likes to take disparate facts to form an hyperbolic thesis to push its vegan agenda. The equation this year goes something like this:

Mark Bittman doesn’t like milk (ignore that he loves cheese) + Some people are lactose intolerant + dairy farmers promote their products = milk is basically poison