Wednesday, December 22, 2010

China's latest Hormone Milk Scandal Update

Following the major upheaval over domestically manufactured melamine tainted milk powder in 2008, recent news reports are not more platable to consumers. 

China's Health Ministry orders probe into milk powder hormone claims. 

Parents and doctors in Hubei were reported earlier this month voicing fears that milk powder produced by Syrutra had caused at least three infant girls to develop prematurely.

Ministry spokesman Deng Haihua said at a regular press conference that food safety authorities were already testing samples of milk powder made by Syrutra, a dairy company set up in Qingdao, a coastal city in east China's Shandong Province, in 1998.

Causes for sexual prematurity of children were complicated and could be caused by a wide range of factors, and experts had no way to definitely determine if food or environmental factors were involved yet, he said.
Deng said a 2008 regulation banned sales and reproduction of products made from livestock under the influence of drugs, or those failing to pass health and quarantine inspection standards.

He said estrogen hormones were forbidden in milk powder products and the Ministry of Agriculture had formulated test procedures for estrogen hormones and had provided them to Hubei authorities.

Syrutra's stock prices at Nasdaq fell by almost 27 percent on Monday.
The statement said it was "unscientific and unreasonable for some media to blame premature puberty on the milk formula."

Syrutra's claim was backed by some experts.

Yao Hui, deputy head of the endocrine department of Wuhan Children's Hospital, said among the latest cases treated for the condition at the hospital, three of the four children had never eaten baby formula made by Syrutra. The other baby used to eat Syrutra formula, but switched to other brands last year.

Unlike the melamine case, dairy companies would gain no commercial benefit from adding hormones to its products, Monday's Beijing Times quoted Wang as saying.

But that did not make the milk formula hormone-free, Wang said, adding the substance might have entered the food chain when cattle were reared by farmers.

Owing to the benefit of its quick modernisation, surely China could learn from past mistakes and skip the scandals that plagued the USA milk industry in the last century.

The Birth of America’s Dairy Industry

During the early years of commercial dairy production in the US, most dairies were in cities - and they were filthy. Stables held up to 2,000 cows that were fed the waste residues from grain used in nearby liquor distilleries and breweries. The milk produced by these urban dairies was known as “swill milk,” which would later be referred to by historians as “white poison.”

Because of the close relationship between alcohol production and swill dairies, some of the first reformers to call for stricter standards in the dairy industry were the anti-alcohol temperance groups. These early reformers pushed for the importation of “country milk” into the cities, taking advantage of new railroads and other transportation improvements. v Milk was transported into the cities by rail, but because it was transported without refrigeration, it was no healthier than swill milk.

The High Price of Factory Farmed Milk

With each passing year, more small to mid-sized dairy farmers go out of business. Worn down by production costs that always go up and income that is unpredictable at best, dairymen and women who have been in the business for generations are calling it quits, and are selling off their herds to corporate operations or selling their land for development. Others have tried to adapt by getting big instead of getting out—increasing production through the use of artificial hormones, antibiotics, and highly-concentrated feed, and moving cows off pasture and into large confinement facilities.

Meanwhile, consumers are buying low-quality milk that is potentially harmful to their health. The only winners in this system are the dairy corporations that are willing to go to great lengths to cut costs and increase profit, regardless of the consequences for consumers, animals and the environment.
Breeding, Artificial Hormones and Feed

Because it’s cheaper to produce more milk from fewer cows (smaller herds require less space, feed and other inputs), the corporate dairy industry aims to maximize efficiency by increasing the amount of milk that each cow produces. As a result, the use of breeding, feeding inputs and new technology led to a quadrupling of the average amount of milk produced per dairy cow between 1950 and 2005.

With the invention of artificial insemination, farmers have been able to take tight control over the breeding and genetic makeup of their dairy herds. Using this technology, a single bull may sire tens of thousands of cows, thus minimizing the diversity of the dairy cow gene pool.

Not only are cows bred to produce maximum quantities of milk, their feed consists of fat, energy, and protein-rich grains to increase milk production and replace the energy lost by giving off such large quantities of milk. However, since cows are naturally grass-eaters, they develop digestive problems when they feed on primarily grains like corn and soy. xxi But perhaps the most drastic measure that dairies take to boost milk production is the use of artificial growth hormones such as rBGH - said to increase per-cow milk yield by 10-15 percent.

All of these practices do not only result in health problems in cows, they may also be dangerous to humans that consume their milk.

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