Doctors Sue Safeway and Other D.C. Dairy Retailers for Failing to Warn about Lactose Intolerance
Plaintiffs Want Warning Labels on Milk Cartons; Class-Action Lawsuit Announced at Oct. 6 Briefing at National Press Club
WASHINGTON—Ten area residents, including a 7-year-old boy, will file a class-action lawsuit today against Safeway and other dairy retailers, calling for milk carton labeling warning consumers that milk can cause serious digestive illness. Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest the milk sugar lactose, a normal process that occurs after the age of weaning. For those who are lactose intolerant, drinking milk can result in abdominal pain, diarrhea, and other painful gastrointestinal symptoms. Approximately 75 percent of the world’s population—including 60 to 80 percent of African Americans, 50 to 80 percent of Latinos, and at least 90 percent of Asian Americans and Native Americans—is lactose intolerant.
The plaintiffs are suing on behalf of all D.C. residents. They argue that many area residents are not aware they are lactose intolerant and unwittingly buy milk, only to suffer side effects after drinking it. They also charge the dairy industry with deceiving the public into thinking that milk is essential. The plaintiffs are represented by Dan Kinburn, PCRM’s associate general counsel. The case is being filed in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Defendants include Giant of Maryland; Safeway; Horizon Organic; Dean Foods; Nestle Holdings; Farmland Dairies; Shenandoah’s Pride; Stonyfield Farm; and Cloverland Farms Dairy.
“Imagine a child of 8 or 10 years of age getting sick every day, and no one knows why,” says Kinburn. “These children are often misdiagnosed as having irritable bowel syndrome, parasites, or other illnesses until someone figures out the problem is milk.” Lactose intolerance is often unrecognized because it comes on gradually and occurs in individuals who were previously able to drink milk without symptoms. “Consumers should be warned about milk’s possible health effects,” Kinburn says.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.
Jeanne S. McVey
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