Fonterra’s so-called ‘corporate philanthropy’ will end in tears, writes Carrie Steele.
SO, FOLLOWING THE ‘successful trial’ in Northland providing milk to more than 10,000 children, Fonterra has announced that they will roll it out across the country, launching the nationwide ‘Milk For Schools’ programme.
It has been described as “an act of corporate philanthropy that dwarfs anything this country has ever seen”. I’m not certain whose opinion this is – Fonterra’s ‘Social Responsibility Manager’ Carly Robinson, or Simon Collins, who wrote the article in the NZ Herald, ‘Milk Of Human Kindness’. Whoever it was, it’s a load of bollocks.
Thanks to millions and millions spent on advertising, most people remain convinced that we all need to consume dairy products, and especially, milk. And the more the merrier. Let’s conveniently ignore the fact that it would be hard to find another culprit in the western diet that has such an adverse effect on health. Let’s pretend there is not compelling evidence to suggest that dairy consumption is linked to osteoporosis, diabetes, sinus problems, skin problems (such as rashes, dermatitis, eczema), asthma, digestive problems (like irritable bowel), arthritis, cancer, heart disease and obesity.
No need to worry about those things though – it’s all good news it seems, and we should all be terribly grateful to Fonterra.
In my mind, there is little doubt that what Otago University Professor Winsom Parnell refers to as “in effect, an uncontrolled experiment” will indeed play a role in the future health of another generation of New Zealanders. They too will join the ranks of those already firmly ensconced in the belief that we must consume animal protein to survive, and remain blissfully ignorant of the fact that their arteries are likely to end up coated in sludgy plaque that feels like the top of a cheesecake (according to one heart surgeon’s first-hand description). Professor Parnell went on to say that: “In the full context of obesity in children, I’m not sure it’s been thought through”.
“Let’s conveniently ignore the fact that it would be hard to find another culprit in the western diet that has such an adverse effect on health.”
Let’s cut to the chase here: Fonterra’s chief executive says that: “Milk should be available to all children because of its nutrition value, but consumption was dropping”. Fonterra’s mission here is crystal clear: to reverse a decline in local milk consumption dating back to 1974, when the Government began phasing out a subsidy that had held the price at 4c a pint for decades. In announcing the roll-out of the national programme, Fonterra’s CE said that he wanted New Zealand to be “the dairy nutrition capital of the world, a model for the company’s global markets. We want a healthy nation and its future business for us as well”.
And therein lies the whole truth. This has nothing to do with corporate philanthropy, and everything to do with recruiting another generation of life-long milk drinkers.
But that’s not how some school principals and one school ‘health co-ordinator’ see it. They are only too happy to endorse the scheme since they have determined that many of their pupils “lack milk in their diet”. At one school, the principal reports that some of the kids will drink four or five of the (180ml) cartons in a day. This is good, because apparently “with the younger children, it’s stunted growth. I really think it’s lack of protein,” he says. Lucky for them, Fonterra has come to the rescue, with free milk which nobody would dispute is an excellent food source for… calves.
Weighing around 100 pounds at birth, a calf typically gains approximately eight times its weight by the time it is weaned. But unlike humans, once calves are weaned, they never drink milk again. That leaves plenty to go around for those puny kids who can bulk up over the next few years as their taste for the white stuff increases and they continue to consume it, and everything made from it. While mother’s milk is excellent nourishment for human babies, its composition is very different from cow’s milk. For one thing, cow’s milk has about three times the amount of protein of human milk.
The myth that we all need to consume dairy products for milk proteins is centred on the flawed belief that this protein and calcium-rich drink is essential to support good overall health and bone health from the cradle to the grave. What continues to be ignored is that many scientific studies have shown detrimental health effects directly linked to milk consumption.
“They too will… remain blissfully ignorant of the fact that their arteries are likely to end up coated in sludgy plaque that feels like the top of a cheesecake.”
Surprisingly, not only do we absorb very little of the calcium in cow’s milk, it actually increases calcium loss from the bones. This is because milk, like all animal proteins, creates an acid PH in the body, which our body then tries to correct, and because calcium neutralises acid, and the biggest store of calcium in our bodies is in our bones, this is utilised to alkalise the effects of the acidity caused by the consumption of the animal proteins consumed in the milk. Once calcium is pulled out of the bones, it leaves the body via the urine, resulting in an actual calcium deficit. So, the more animal proteins you consume, the more calcium is used from our bones and the vicious circle keeps turning.
This explains why statistics show that countries with the lowest consumption of dairy products also have the lowest rates of osteoporosis in their population – and why New Zealand, soon to be known as “the dairy capital of the world” (if it isn’t already) has one of the highest rates of osteoporosis.
I highly recommend to all women that you search out some reading on this matter. I firmly believe that we’ve been spun a convincing tale and we have thus far paid the price with our own health, not only with regard to our fairly dismal osteoporosis statistics, but also with regard to other health conditions related to oestrogen levels, which are highly affected by consumption of animal proteins. I speak from experience – in particular, if you suffer from endometriosis, I can’t urge you enough to consider whether your current diet is doing you any favours.
Education Minister Hekia Parata may be congratulating Fonterra for this initiative, and the All Blacks Captain may be enjoying his two litres a week, but I’m not happy – and neither should any of us be. This has nothing to do with our children’s health, and everything to do with marketing a product for which consumption has slumped. – CARRIE STEELE