More Dubious Advice on School Foods by Dairy Industry

by L Matthews on February 23, 2011

cows say eat more chicken

For those of you that don’t already know, I’m a nutrition student at a UK uni, now studying via distance learning in Canada. As part of my course I have to complete an ‘Experiential Learning’ module… great, reminds me of being fifteen and awkward and not wanting to do work experience… ain’t social anxiety simply fabulous?

In order to complete this requirement I have to find somewhere to do something useful, that has some kind of connection to nutrition. If I was still in the lovely Chorlton, Manchester, area I’d have loads of options through various community, allotmenting, green-living lovely folks. Alas, I have not ‘cultivated’ (geddit?) those contacts in Canada as yet, so am at a bit of a loss as to where to go. I’m not qualified, as far as I can see, to actually be of any help to any meaningful organisations as regards giving nutritional advice. I may be able to work in a magazine environment which, given my profession as a freelance writer, seems apt enough. The problem is getting my uni to approve such an organisation without really being familiar with them! Boo.

So, this afternoon I was looking at various possibilities and found the Healthy Eating at School site. Great! Or so I thought… a branch of the Government that actively promotes healthy eating in schools and is connected to community groups that encourage growing your own food and being part of a sustainable local food movement. Alas, all is not rosy in the organisation. Looking further I discover that the venture is a joint effort between the BC Ministry of Healthy Living & Sport, and Knowledge:, and the BC Dairy Council. As you may imagine, my suspicions were aroused at such a partnership. The dairy industry involved in a healthy living project? Hmmm.

Reading through the rest of the site I found some ‘advice’ given to students interesting in getting involved and promoting a healthy diet for themselves and fellow students. The document is pretty short, only about a page long, and quite basic. As part of the guidance students are advised to:

“Eat fruits, veggies and healthy foods and drink milk as often as you can—you’ve got the power to choose.”

Excuse me? Drink milk as often as you can? Really? Now, surely anyone who isn’t even vegan would appreciate that that is a bad idea. As a quick recap on the merits of milk in terms of nutrition: it can be a decent source of protein, calcium, some B vitamins, and a few other nice things – for a calf. Whilst milk does contain calcium it can also have an acidfying effect on the blood due to the protein content, and the body attempts to correct this by drawing calcium from the bones. It is important not to overstate the idea that milk weakens the bones though as, if we are to promote veganism on the basis of health, we need to have our facts right when talking about nutrition.

Milk is known, however, for its capacity to seriously upset digestion, with the majority of people in Western societies actually intolerant to the sugar (lactose) in milk after a certain age. And, it may cause an increase in mucus production in the gut which actually prevents the absorption of the very nutrients it is purported to provide. I hasten to add that I am unable to find any research to support this last claim, which may simply be a much-quoted myth – anyone with evidence would be most welcome to chip in here.

So, Canada’s government, and all other governements out there, perhaps it isn’t the best idea to have interested industry organisations involved in formulating the guidelines for healthy eating in schools or anywhere else? Just a thought.

Perhaps, I should do my work experience here and see if I can get that line taken out…

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Leave a Comment

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Carrie (Carrie on Vegan) February 25, 2011 at 08:50

Oh my, how disturbing. We have the same problem here in the US where the government guidelines for healthy eating have been heavily influenced by lobbyists and industry. It’s sad that it’s such a missed opportunity to tell people what they really should be eating. I think you would probably be better served by finding an organization that shares your same values for your project…

admin February 25, 2011 at 13:24

It is odd how the USDA has the dual remit of promoting health and promoting the dairy industry! I think you’re right about needing to find an organisation more in line with reasonable, evidence-based nutritional medicine and health… now to find one nearby…!

Lashawna Ligon February 26, 2011 at 20:20

Respect to op , some superb information .

David February 27, 2011 at 07:41

Great post, keep em coming…

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