Leave it to the animal-rights fanatics at the misnamed Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) to make a mountain out of a dietary molehill. This morning the group announced class-action lawsuits against nine companies that sell milk in the District of Columbia. Their demand? Warning labels directed at African-Americans and others who may be lactose intolerant and — according to this morning’s Washington Times — “monetary awards for the pain and suffering they experienced from drinking milk.” The American Gastroenterological Association’s official statement about lactose intolerance says that it “need not pose a serious threat to good health” and “is relatively easy to treat.” Someone should buy PCRM president Neal Barnard a membership — or a bottle of Lactaid.
On two occasions during this morning’s press conference, PCRM lead counsel Dan Kinburn (last seen holding a sign at an anti-medical-research rally held by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) told a mercifully tiny gaggle of reporters that PCRM wants “warning labels on every carton of milk sold in the District.” But at least two of the defendants named in PCRM’s lawsuit sell lactose-free milk from brands like Dairy Ease and Lactaid. Warning labels on those products wouldn’t do a thing for lactose intolerant Americans, other than scaring them away from dairy products in general — which is precisely what PCRM wants.
Instead of PCRM talking about the relationship between the group’s animal-rights philosophy and its repeated attacks on dairy foods, what the press heard was a mixture of propaganda and racially loaded bombast. When one reporter asked Kinburn whether lactose intolerance was in the same league as peanut allergies — which in rare cases can be fatal — he replied by comparing PCRM’s ideal warning label to “chain saw warnings about, you know, cutting off your leg.” PCRM spokesman Milton Mills slammed tennis star Serena Williams for posing in a milk-mustache ad and complained bitterly about the supposed “institutional racial bias” in milk marketing. And in a moment reminiscent of a recent gaffe by nutrition nag Marion Nestle, Mills insisted that “cows don’t drink milk, yet they have plenty of calcium.” You’d think a representative of an animal-rights group would know a bit more about dairy calves.
Aside from its animal-rights agenda, PCRM is hiding something big, and in a press release this morning, we laid it bare: Science indicates that even severely lactose intolerant people can drink moderate amounts of milk. In 1997 a team from the Minneapolis VA Hospital published a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, concluding that lactose-intolerant persons can “tolerate two cups of milk per day without appreciable symptoms.” The same research team reported the following year that “symptoms resulting from lactose maldigestion are not a major impediment to the ingestion of a dairy-rich diet.”
But no matter. When you’re an animal-rights activist from the Pseudo-science Committee for Ridiculing Milk (PCRM), science takes a back seat to ideology.