July 22 2017, updated 4:33pm

'Devil' in milk risk to health, scientist claims

Last updated 00:00 13/09/2007

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A mass of scientific evidence linking milk to heart disease, type-1 diabetes, autism, schizophrenia and other illnesses has been assembled by a Lincoln University professor in a move that will send shockwaves through the dairy industry.
What the 'milk devil' could do

Professor Keith Woodford also claims that the dairy industry hid bungled science and that the Food Safety Authority did not publish negative comments in a report it commissioned on milk safety.

He believes "serious misjudgments" have been made and said yesterday: "I wouldn't use the word scandal, but I can understand how others might see it that way."

Much of the science presented by the professor of farm management and agribusiness has been known for several years but has been countered by dairy industry research and by a review for the Food Safety Authority.

However, in a book to be published tomorrow, he argues against the science on which the industry relies, and says that the accidental contamination of a Dairy Research Institute trial of rats' diets in 2002 was not made public.

He claims this was known long before the paper was published in an international journal, but there was no disclosure.

"This is totally unacceptable scientific behaviour."

The Food Safety Authority said in 2004 that its review, done by Professor Boyd Swinburn, found milk was "safe" to drink.

But Professor Swinburn did not say milk was safe.

In a "lay summary" not published by the authority, Professor Swinburn says that fears of milk's disease risk should be taken seriously and that people may wish to reduce or remove milk from their diet as a precaution.

The authority later added the lay summary to its website, but Professor Woodford also believes this is "totally unacceptable".

In uncovering the scientific evidence from more than 100 peer-reviewed papers, he has reached the view that "some people have acted in a way, either purposefully or accidentally, that obscures the truth".

The Dairy Research Institute is now part of Fonterra.

A spokeswoman said yesterday that it was more appropriate for an independent party such as the Food Safety Authority to comment.

Authority policy director Carole Inkster said it had declared milk safe because Professor Swinburn did not find it unsafe.

"We were concerned people would stop drinking milk and wanted to say, 'Drinking milk is a good plan'."

She said the lay summary was not asked for by the authority, and it published it later when questions were asked because it did not want to hide anything.

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Health fears about milk stem from the link between a tiny protein fragment in milk - what Professor Woodford calls a "milk devil" - and many illnesses.

The devil is present in A1 milk, but not in A2, produced by about half of New Zealand's cows.

The dairy industry mixes both types together so that all milk, apart from a small amount produced by the A2 Corporation and sold mainly in Auckland, contains the milk devil.

Professor Woodford says the industry could simply remove any risk by breeding only A2 cows.

It would take about 10 years before the national herd was completely A2.

However, this would prove embarrassing for Fonterra because it had argued forcibly on the world stage that the anti-A1 science was wrong.

He says he has tried hard to persuade Fonterra to look again at the issue. "But they were blinded to the possibility that their organisation's stance was flawed."

- The Dominion Post

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