PCRM Takes on the Meat and Milk Industries
When PCRM complained to the Federal Trade Commission about health claims in the "milk mustache" advertisements on April 29, sparks flew in the media. ABC World News Tonight ran an extended piece on the complaint, featuring PCRM president Neal Barnard, M.D., on May 31. Also featured was Walter Willett, M.D., head of the Harvard Nurses' Health Study, who pointed out that there is no good evidence that milk prevents bone breaks.
The Boston Globe ran a front-page story on the broader controversy, linking federal guidelines that push meat and milk to serious health problems, especially among minorities. U.S. Department of Agriculture spokesperson Eilene Kennedy was quoted as saying the food pyramid is intended for "the majority of Americans. It doesn't communicate to all Americans." The FTC is now investigating. No verdict is expected for several months.
Meanwhile, a study funded by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association appeared in the Archives of Internal Medicine on June 28, purporting to show that "lean" red meat can be part of a cholesterol-lowering diet.
PCRM has requested a retraction from the journal. The research article actually showed that the red meat diet lowered cholesterol levels only 1 percent, and statistical tests run by the researchers themselves showed that the result could easily have been due to chance alone. The study found that white meat lowered cholesterol levels only 1.8 percent. For comparison, studies have shown that vegetarian diets can reduce cholesterol levels by more than 20 percent, comparable to the effect of cholesterol-lowering drugs.
The Archives is published by the AMA, which has been criticized for its links with the livestock industry. An AMA video program on hypercholesterolemia was funded by the National Livestock and Meat Board, Beef Board, and Pork Board, and on November 5, 1993, the AMA and the American Dietetic Association (ADA) issued simultaneous press releases reassuring Americans about the safety of milk from cows injected with bovine growth hormone. The ADA later confirmed that it had received $85,000 from BGH-manufacturer Monsanto in connection with its effort to "educate" the public about BGH, and the AMA reportedly received $30,000 for a related "educational" television program.