Release of A2 Milk Summary Welcomed... But
Release of A2 Milk Summary Welcomed... But
Risk and Policy Analyst
Beyond Alternative Solutions
"The posting of the censored Lay Summary on the government's Food Safety Authority website is a welcome move and vindicates calls for an inquiry into why the NZFSA falsified Professor Swinburn's report in the first place," says Ron Law [09-832 4773], an independent risk and policy analyst.
The surfacing of the missing Lay Summary confirms the fact that the NZFSA not only mislead the public of New Zealand by removing the lay summary from the report in the first place, but that they deliberately reformatted the report to keep the pagination the same as the original and then falsely claimed that they had released the full report.
The NZFSA also made totally false statements in various press releases and comments to the media.
The Media release: A1/A2 milk review released dated 3 August 2004 started by saying;
"Consumers are advised to keep drinking milk as a nutritious food, no matter whether it’s A1 or A2, as there is no food safety issue with either type of milk, says NZFSA Director of Food Standards, Carole Inkster."
This is a totally false statement -- there is a MAJOR safety issue regarding the consumption of A1 milk. There is also a major economic issue.
Professor Swinburn's report said,
"Those countries with the highest consumption of A1 b -casein had the highest rates of type 1 diabetes and heart disease. The relationship was very strong indeed, but these types of comparisons between countries can be difficult to interpret... [but that] Further research, especially involving human trials, is needed before it can be said with confidence that the A1/A2 composition of milk is important in human health."
In effect, Professor Swinburn concluded that whilst there was plenty of smoke, and the smoke alarm was ringing, further investigation was required to determine if there was a real fire or not. He never once said in his report that there was no safety issue; in fact, all the evidence suggests quite clearly that there is a major safety issue with A1 milk, but not A2 milk.
Further, the lay report clearly spells out to the government agency that it should tell consumers about the smoke alarm so that they could apply the precautionary principle if they wanted to avoid potential harm.
The NZFSA claims that Swinburn had concluded that the A1/A2 hypothesis was a false alarm when he didn't.
There is also major concern that the NZFSA advised Professor Swinburn by email not to discuss the precautionary principle in his report; this is a classic case when it should have been applied and Swinburn does his best to convey that message; the evidence suggests strongly that there COULD be a problem, and sensible and honest risk communication strategies required that both the dairy industry and consumers should have been advised that, despite the uncertainties, there are simple risk management options available to reduce potential harm. Farmers could be reducing their risks by using A2 bulls in the upcoming breeding season, and consumers could be reducing their risks by consuming A2 milk.
The economic risk is especially significant as the market place responds to both perception and reality... human health is only affected by reality. As Swinburn said, " Changing dairy herds to more A2 producing cows may significantly improve public health, if the A1/A2 hypothesis is proved correct, and it is highly unlikely to do harm."
To appease the NZFSA's concerns about the 'baggage' associated with the term 'precautionary principle,' Swinburn used the terms precautionary approach or precautionary measure four times in his report instead.
Swinburn said, "As a matter of individual choice, people may wish to reduce or remove A1 b-casein from their diet (or their children’s diet) as a precautionary measure. This may be particularly relevant for those individuals who have or are at risk of the diseases mentioned (type 1 diabetes, coronary heart disease, autism and schizophrenia). However, they should do so knowing that there is substantial uncertainty about the benefits of such an approach."
Why wasn't that precautionary message conveyed to the consumer? Especially those at high risk as advised by Professor Swinburn.
Need for full inquiry:
In order to restore public confidence in the Food Safety Authority a full independent inquiry is required into the agenda behind the falsification of the report and the false media spin that occurred.
Swinburn quite rightly concluded that the A1/A2 hypothesis should be taken seriously -- an inquiry should explore why the NZFSA failed to do so.
Was the NZFSA trying to protect existing commercial interests rather than keeping an open mind?
An inquiry might also consider whether the NZFSA was compromised by the fact that it chairs and provides the secretariat to the WHO/UN Codex Committee on Milk and Milk Products which sets standards for milk and milk products in order to enable large corporate companies to trade their products globally.
In the meantime, the FULL uncensored report should replace the adulterated version on the NZFSA website to ensure the integrity of Swinburn's report .
The Lay Summary can be found at
Beta casein A1 and A2 in milk and human health: Lay Summary
About 25-30% of the protein in cows’ milk is
b-casein and it comes in several
forms depending on the genetic make up of the cows. One of the forms is
called A1 b-casein and it has been suggested that it might cause or aggravate
one type 1 diabetes (which is the type seen most commonly in children), heart
disease, schizophrenia, and autism. The other main form of b-casein is called
A2 and it has not been not been implicated in these diseases. The evidence
to support the hypothesis that the A1/A2 composition of milk is a causative or
protective factor in these diseases is reviewed in the report.
The strongest evidence is for type 1 diabetes and heart disease. The main
study supporting a relationship with the type of milk consumed was a
comparison of 20 countries. Those countries with the highest consumption of
A1 b-casein had the highest rates of type 1 diabetes and heart disease. The
relationship was very strong indeed, but these types of comparisons between
countries can be difficult to interpret. There are many other factors that
contribute to these diseases and the information is only averaged for the
whole country’s population. There have been a few other human and animal
studies which provide some limited support for the hypothesis. Further
research, especially involving human trials, is needed before it can be said
with confidence that the A1/A2 composition of milk is important in human
The evidence in relation to an effect of A1 b-casein on schizophrenia or
autism is much less. Some individuals with autism seem to improve on
special diets that are free of both casein and gluten.
The A1/A2hypothesis is both intriguing and potentially very important for
population health if it is proved correct. It should be taken seriously and
further research is needed. In addition, the appropriate government agencies
have a responsibility to communicate the current state of evidence to the
public, including the uncertainty about the evidence. Further public health
actions, such as changing dietary advice or requiring labelling of milk
products, are not considered to be warranted at this stage. Monitoring is also
required to ensure that any claims made for A2 milk fall within the regulations
for food claims.
Changing the dairy herds to more A2 producing cows is an option for the dairy
and associated industries and these decisions will undoubtedly be made on a
commercial basis. Changing dairy herds to more A2 producing cows may
significantly improve public health, if the A1/A2 hypothesis is proved correct,
and it is highly unlikely to do harm.
As a matter of individual choice, people may wish to reduce or remove A1 b-casein
from their diet (or their children’s diet) as a precautionary measure.
This may be particularly relevant for those individuals who have or are at risk
of the diseases mentioned (type 1 diabetes, coronary heart disease, autism
and schizophrenia). However, they should do so knowing that there is
substantial uncertainty about the benefits of such an approach.