UPDATE November 30, 2021: A2 Milk Company under scrutiny again for crooked business practices. “The A2 Milk Company is the defendant in a proposed class action lawsuit that claims it misleadingly advertises its products as able to ease digestion for those who experience discomfort from drinking milk.” Read on!
If you actually read the book Devil in the Milk, you’ll find that it starts out as a story of scientists who suspect a devil in milk to cause or increase the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease (CVD), autism and other mental disorders, eczema, and gut inflammation. The main characters are a couple of scientists who partner up with a New Zealand milk corporation, A2 Milk Company (A2MC), that deals in ultra-high temperature (UHT) milk. They all set off for the land of UHT Adulterated Milk in search of proof for their theory.
After producing studies based on cooked, adulterated milk, they begin selling their theory to desperate parents willing to try anything to get their children well, even if it is the same cooked, adulterated milk with a new name.
The author of Devil in the Milk spins a drama out of one failed study after another. While the scientists in the book are busy excelling at deficient science, the New Zealand milk monopoly known as Fonterra is forced to defend its devilish A1 milk product in order to secure its dynastic hold on the market. (In 2018, Fonterra partnered with A2MC and is now their A2 milk supplier.)
I could have easily titled this article “A2 Milk: A Tale of Two Milk Corporations” and told you about the push to get A2 milk into the marketplace by demonizing A1 milk and scaring people into switching to the more expensive devil-free version. But I will not tell you that part of the story here. Slog through it yourself like I did if you want to get a grasp on what the heck is going on.
My impetus in writing this article is to point out to my raw milk friends and dairymen how dangerous it is to jump into a food fad fraught with unverified claims. These claims have made their way into the mainstream and are even turning raw milk folk away from their common-sense, whole food, raw milk philosophy. You can also consider this article a refresher course on the whole food principles that all raw milk dairy folks need to understand if they want to save their customers from useless food fads.
This article is long. Print it out and spend time with it. Mark it up. Yell at me in the margins. But read it. It will be worth your effort.
A Good Question
What I want to know is, what are we—the raw milk, whole food citizenry—doing in the middle of this sham? How did raw milk dairy folk come to believe that any theory based on pasteurized, UHT milk should alter the way we approach our milk and cows?
Please be clear: I am not against A2 milk per se. In fact, there is no evidence that A2 raw milk is unsafe (though we cannot know for sure). What I find deceptive about the A2 movement is that: 1) all of the human studies were done on UHT processed milk; 2) none of the studies have been independently verified; and 3) there is no such thing as A1 or A2 milk. Therefore, the raw milk public should have nothing to do with it. More importantly, we should not be so susceptible to mass marketing, so desperate to capitalize on a growing market share, that we neglect to take a rational look at the whole picture first.
A Rational Voice for the Wholistic Citizenry
I want to ask the common-sense questions that should arise whenever the whole food citizenry is faced with some new “scientific” reason why a whole food should be demonized and then altered to fit the so-called science. Especially from the corrupt dairy industry of the past 100 years (see “Remember Your Commitment to Raw Milk” below). Meanwhile, proof is out there. The devil is not in the milk. It is in the pasteurization and homogenization of milk into a substance formerly known as milk.
Now that raw milk dairy folk are pushing this change on their original customers—those of us who have been perfectly fine on our original cow herds and our normal milk—so they can accommodate people who blame milk for their poor digestive function, we are left wondering: How we are to be sure that A2 raw milk is safe?
But we cannot know. Why? Because no study has yet tested the safety of raw A2 milk. All commercial A2 milk is UHT—the perfect growth food for living mammals flambéed at 275–309˚F for up to eight seconds. Not a single animal on this planet can survive that. Not even close. This is one of the reasons the studies done on A2 milk are skewed. Once raw milk is flamed at these temps, it is no longer the original food called “milk.” How it acts in the gut is not how real milk will act.
But now that we have fallen for this scam, raw milk fans and the whole food citizenry alike are vulnerable to whatever cascade of commercial flimflam science follows this A2 theory. The firewall we built around raw milk has been shaken. That firewall was built on 100 years of expensive, heartbreaking, hard-won victories to legalize raw milk and to promote, without fear of prosecution, organic food and food supplements nationwide.
I was shocked to find that it was so easily breached by those who were supposed to be the keepers of these critical protections. Those keepers—you, me, and all supporters, consumers, farmers, and milkers of raw milk—are falling for yet another adulterated food fad. And we are falling for it based on studies conducted on what? ULTRA-HIGH TEMPERATURE MILK! The very milk that helped wreck our gut health and our children’s gut health to begin with. The very milk we rose up to reject back when we listened to the rational voices of true men of science—voices such as Dr. Weston Price, Dr. Francis Pottenger Jr., and Dr. Royal Lee.
All it took was one person to write one book to pull us off track and get us chasing another food fad. Devil in the Milk (or DIM, as I like to call it for dumbing down science—and the reader) is Keith Woodford’s one book, and he filled it with myriad unverified claims, conjecture, and speculation.
Even the foreword by Dr. Thomas Cowan, a San Francisco medical doctor, depicts the contradicting principles of the A2 raw milk position. Cowan begins with the story of how he became an advocate for raw milk after he saw “a lot of positive benefits from switching people from commercial pasteurized milk and milk products to pasture-fed, raw, and cultured dairy.”
A founding board member of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Dr. Cowan has even written books on “the dangers of commercial pasteurized dairy products and the health, social, and economical benefits that would come from our country switching to properly raised cows providing full-fat, raw dairy products.”
In spite of that, Cowan goes on to claim that he still could not figure out why he was “continually faced with patients whose medical situation improved only once they had stopped cow’s milk entirely.”
This is the point where a true wholistic practitioner would kick into gear and begin looking at the whole person. That practitioner would find it illogical that a human body could not digest a whole food. They would, instead, open at least three avenues of exploration: 1) confirmation that the food in question is from a high-quality source and has been properly raised and prepared; 2) the health of the person’s digestive and immune systems; and 3) their diet.
Cow, goat, or sheep milks are not for everyone. No food is. But once the food is confirmed to be a whole, unadulterated form, then the question remains as to why the person’s body is not handling it. In fact, if you were not raised on human breast milk, your infantile, undeveloped digestive system would not have received the factors necessary to complete digestive maturation. So good luck digesting many other kinds of proteins without taking the steps necessary to heal and support your digestive system.
Dr. Cowan does not seem to take that wholistic approach, in spite of his own words: “Dairy products, when properly produced and treated, have nourished generations of the healthiest humans who ever lived.”
Yes! But that is the same milk derived from cows with all kinds of different proportions of proteins! He then, in the same breath, rationalizes the need for A2 milk over the now satanic A1 milk, as if to say, Who are you going to believe, me or the “generations of the healthiest humans who ever lived”?
Dr. Cowan does not seem to realize that his patients’ puzzling symptoms can be explained by a myriad of other possible causes. Instead, he leaps on the premise that A1 milk harbors a demon. The very milk he spent many years of his practice advocating and recommending. What happened to the many people who followed his recommendations for raw A1 milk? This is a dizzying contradiction that cancels out his thinking in both directions.
Dr. Cowan is said to have regretted writing that foreword. But, as far as my research shows, he has yet to make a public statement about it.
Raw Milk Folk: Following the Money
Yes, DIM served the A2 Milk Company well. It helped them make millions. But why has this book and its hypothesis taken the raw milk dairymen by storm? According to the articles I’ve read and the people I’ve talked to, it was because A2 milk held the promise of snagging more customers. I’ve been told that dairy people are not good researchers. They didn’t do their homework. They didn’t look deeper to confirm the story. Why not? Because they were only too happy to respond to a sudden influx of new customers.
It makes sense wanting to make more money selling milk, and it makes sense wanting to respond to your customers. But it doesn’t make sense when raw milk was already a response to customers. Customers who wanted raw milk. The entire bioavailable whole food matrix of whole raw milk—all the integrated 2,500 proteins (that science knows of at this moment), all the enzymes, all the fat.
Why listen to anyone who sells and promotes cooked milk? Why listen to one man, Keith Woodford, tell you his interpretation of studies that you’ve never read and wouldn’t understand if you did? Because you capitalized on something that was not real. You capitalized on a misinformed public that bought into a convincing marketing scheme to promote a product based on poorly done studies and a great deal of conjecture that just ain’t so. What new hype, trend, or fad will you fall for next?
I bet most of you never even read DIM. I know farmers are busy people who get up early and work late. I know the book is dense and not well-written. Stuffed with scientific jargon and studies whose methods and conclusions raise more questions than answers. Most would find it tedious and boring. However, if the book was full of truth and proven facts, if Woodford had based his claims on verified, peer-reviewed, double-blind studies and—Holy crap milk really is the devil’s elixir!—then it would have been a real page-turner.
But I get it. DIM is filled with magic words. “Leaky gut.” “Autism.” “Traditional” cows. It is also liberally peppered with anecdotal stories about parents whose children can suddenly drink milk again.
But there, again, is why I know most raw milk people didn’t read this book. Because if they had read that children with gut problems could suddenly drink ultra-high temperature, denatured milk without having gut problems, they’d be skeptical. They know that milk—once it is pasteurized, or UHT-processed, or homogenized—cannot be properly digested in the human gut. Even a healthy human gut. How is this core wholistic principle not enough to stop raw milk supporters from buying into the A2 theory?
Why are we in the middle of this crap? Because we learned from these geniuses that there are traditional cows? Meaning that the cows we’ve been milking are not “traditional” cows? Cows, like apples and chickens, have been crossbred forever. Gene mutations from crossbreeding, which produces genetic diversity, occur all the time.
This is what traditional cows looked like before we bred them to be awesome:
A2 Raw Milk Guinea Pigs Want an Apology
Okay, raw milk dairymen, riddle me this: What about those of us who have been your A1 raw milk customers for many years? Are we to be treated like guinea pigs now?
Think about it. Those of you raw milk dairymen and women who have bought into the A1-milk-causes-disease theory with your hard-earned dollars are now converting your herds to A2 cows. Does that mean your past A1 milk was responsible for our heart disease? Or mental disorders? Or someone’s autistic child? If you bought into the A2 premise that A1 milk is harmful, and you have to stop selling it because it causes diseases, I want an apology for the 30 years of raw milk that you sold me and my family. All your past customers deserve apology letters, a warning that they should never again touch A1 milk, and assurances that you have killed all your A1 cows.
When we don’t stand with whole food principles, our legs go all rickety and we fall for all manner of half-truths, bold-faced lies, and seductive marketing magic. We cause deep fractures in our foundations and undermine our credibility.
Legal Protection for Raw Milk
The firewall of legislated protections for whole food and raw milk was built by a handful of leaders who fought many a hard fight. Some of them are legends in the history of food freedom in this country. The others were us, our parents, our grandparents. We signed petitions, attended meetings, and voted with our dollars. We fought, state by state, against the trillion-dollar food industrial complex and their massive power over government bureaucracies and swamp creatures, schools and universities, over the media and marketplace, over the medical cartel. Yes, the raw milk battle has suffered at the hands of the same opponents who fought against us in the battle for food freedom. Raw milk is but one chapter in the larger story of the war between food adulterators and the whole food citizenry. This story began in 1906 with Dr. Harvey Wiley and the Pure Food and Drug Law.
We seem small, yet we pose a threat to this Goliath. Why? Because, for all their wealth and power, they know their foundations are built on the sands of deception. They are vulnerable because their processed, refined, cooked, denatured foods are corrupt—and corrupting of the public’s health. Their money and power flows from creating false needs for false foods, preying on our weakness for convenience over our desire for health. Preying on our ignorance, compliance, laziness, and greed. Yes, we cannot claim to be victims here, not when we are complicit and participate in the same corrupt motives.
But the whole food trade opens a variety of ways to a better state of health and well-being. We create alternative choices. We make whole foods and wholistic health practices available for those who choose them. Yet now we have discovered that we are capable of breaking the bond between us, that we are vulnerable to marketing fake-outs and false premises, and that we put everyone in the whole food community at risk.
How long will it be before someone writes a book about how mother’s milk is inferior, primitive, and embarrassing, and that nursing is inconvenient? But fear not! They have the perfect solution—premade baby formula chock-full of synthetic chemicals and the “milk” of the soybean!
Remember? Remember when the post-WWII medical professions promoted bottle feeding to “modern” mothers with claims that formula was superior to breastfeeding? How many of us were denied the beautiful, nourishing life support of mother’s milk because of that marketing scheme? That invasion on our humanity inspired an internal revolt in medicine. With his 1979 book Confessions of a Medical Heretic, Dr. Robert Mendelsohn drove the revolt into the mainstream as he warned of this professional lunacy. Now mothers can at least discover what their choices are.
BUT. Given the push for Big Government that we see in certain segments of our society, do you seriously think it impossible that even breastfeeding could come under control of some bureaucratic lunacy? Forced mass medication of our water via fluoridation and the push for forced vaccinations are great examples of what is possible when we break our bond and stop fighting. When survival mode takes over and a fear of not making enough money looms large over the horizon, what compromises would you be willing to make with the rights of others?
While we’re at it, could the push for baby formula in place of mother’s milk be one of the many reasons why some people are lactose intolerant to begin with? How many of them as infants consumed a manmade formula completely removed from the human system of development? Could it be that the many other foods devoid of nature’s nutritional structure, devoid of nutrients—those cooked, altered, denatured, ersatz foods—are behind many other intolerances and prevent our systems from digesting and absorbing nutrition? A perpetual state of malnutrition that causes birth defects, obesity, genetic weaknesses, propensities to diseases, and, oh yeah, digestive failures?
The whole food movement is never safe from those who would seduce us and our children into consuming their zombie foods. We cannot afford to be vulnerable to those schemes.
Your First Clue
What kind of title is Devil in the Milk? What kind of scientific study, book, monograph, or thesis uses the culturally explosive word “devil” to describe a subtle scientific insight? Is a subtle change of a single amino acid so profound that it should be likened to demonic origins? Even infantile paralysis, aka polio, was not named demonic possession of the limbs. This is our first clue that something is amok. That marketing is, once again, being used to trick and shock us to attention. This is what a wildly out-of-rational-control fake food market must to do to compete.
Maybe common sense and humility can prevail here. Maybe we can admit that, once again, we fell for some stupid, unverified BS meant to make a few people wealthy at our own expense. Or maybe we had the best of intentions and were only thinking of how awful it would be if the milk we were selling, and drinking, was satanic. But I just can’t let us off that hook. As soon as people with a raw milk, whole food philosophy hear that pasteurized milk companies are demonizing both raw and cooked milk, their hair should burst into flames, their bones should rattle, and their brows furrow as they ponder why that sounds so anti-smart.
Turn back, people. Turn back to the foundations of wholistic principles and get straight with yourselves and your customers.
The Original Food
For mammals, milk is the original food. In its raw form, milk is the first food of life upon which our physical and mental foundations are built. The act of breastfeeding forms a deep bond between mother and offspring and provides the critical biologic elements that form the immune system and gut biome.
Human mother’s milk provides the infant with predigested protein, enzymes, beneficial bacteria, prebiotics, minerals, and fats, making breast milk the ultimate food for the baby’s developing GI tract. Also, the attendant bound calcium, fats, and other heat sensitive elements in the whole milk matrix make calcium bioavailable. Calcium is a well-known physiological tranquilizer in that it relaxes muscle contraction, smooths nerve transmission and innervation, and is anti-spasmodic. Without question, calcium loses its natural bonds when pasteurized and is then less assimilable.
The one enzyme in raw milk that makes it possible for calcium to form bone is alkaline phosphatase. But the only value that the pasteurized dairy industry has for this critical nutrient is as a chemical proxy for the pasteurization of milk. The alkaline phosphatase enzyme test will confirm that the enzyme was destroyed. Then we know if the “milk has been adequately pasteurised or whether it has been contaminated with raw milk after pasteurisation.” Darn, we needed that enzyme. Oh well!
UHT A2 milk, with all its deceptive marketing, ignores the nuanced complexity of living beings and living food, repackaging milk into a stripped-down product that deprives the body of nourishment. UHT processing is meant for one thing—long shelf life. This shelf life is gained by the destruction of critical proteins and enzymes designed to assist in digestion. Shelf life and gut life are opposing objectives. The A2MC choses shelf life over nutrition, digestibility, and whole food elements that are now destroyed during UHT processing and homogenization.
Papers across the scientific literature now consider pasteurization of mother’s milk to be a serious problem and forecast that soon breast milk banks will screen the donor and keep the donated milk raw. Pasteurization of banked donated breast milk degrades the critical elements found in human milk that are now considered absolutely essential to the baby’s health, digestive tract development, and immune system.
You will find a number of discoveries as you read further. Before you venture on to the references and studies that back my claims, let’s preview some key points that will give you context for those references.
One discovery you will make is how common it is to find baby-friendly opiate-like substances in the milk proteins of both human and cow milks. From the A2 story, you would not know that caso-opiates are common along many of the protein chains. The A2 Company has gone so far as to claim that these beta-casein milk proteins that have opiate like qualities (BCM7) are “the devil in the milk proteins.” The science completely disagrees. These caso-opiates serve a purpose and are normal and necessary.
Also, the language used in proteome science is Alpha s1 (casein) and Alpha s2 (albumin). Nowhere is A1 or A2 mentioned in relationship to caso-proteins. The language that A2MC invented (as part of the patent process) is not part of the nomenclature in the literature of milk science. It merely serves to dumb down the complex biology of milk proteomics.
A2MC capitalizes on making “some milk good and some milk bad,” all because of their A1 versus A2 definitions that are not described in milk protein science. The discovery that some milks have a histidine and some have a proline at the 67th allele is nothing earthshattering. This BCM7 caso-morphine-like protein component is common and is found along the protein strands on both cow milk and human milk.
The milk of each species has its own unique protein makeup. In fact, even within a species milk can vary. It will also change composition over the time the mother breastfeeds. Many of these proteins are common to all the various mammalian milks as they vary in amounts. Cow and human milks have differences and similarities, depending on what you’re looking for. But in DIM, A2 and A1 are presented as if one amino acid is bad (the fallen one that became Satan), and the other amino acid is good (the unproven, so-called “traditional” one that is now the Savior of Human Digestion.)
Current Findings in Milk Science
In researching this article, I spoke and corresponded with a number of principles in the field of the dairy business and in milk science. Most prominently, I spoke with Mark McAfee, founder of the Raw Milk Institute and founder/owner of Organic Pastures Dairy Company. Mark generously gave his time and attention to help me sort through all the information I encountered. Also thanks to him, I was able to speak to and correspond with world-class experts Dr. David Dallas, an assistant professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University, and Dr. Jennifer Smilowitz, Director of Scientific and Strategic Development at the International Milk Genomics Consortium (IMGC), about their own studies and their reviews of studies. They were very generous with their time and resources, which helped me understand how vast and intricate is the chemistry of milk.
Those nearly sterile bottles of the stuff on grocery shelves look to me now like we captured the light of some celestial being, tortured it into submission, and put it up for sale to unwitting consumers who will never comprehend the power and beauty of its origins. The more you study milk, the more there is to learn about it. Those who know the most are also the most humble—they understand that so much more needs to be understood before forming firm opinions.
When I asked Dr. Smilowitz about A1 and A2 proteins, I felt like I was speaking Martian to her. The language and concepts of the A2 theory are not part of proteomic science. The A1 so-called mutation is not mentioned in the literature because it does not matter. There are many opiate-like substances found in human milk, and all of them serve a purpose.
Dr. Smilowitz shared five papers (listed below) on research into human milk. She writes: “Here are the attached papers (primary and secondary) that demonstrate human milk contains proteins and peptides mostly derived of beta and kappa casein, and alpha 1 casein in lower amounts. No reports of alpha 2 casein. The other major difference you’ll see from the papers is that bovine is mostly casein and human milk is mostly whey. Of the casein fraction, bovine milk casein is dominated by alpha s1, which is low in human milk. Human milk casein is dominated by beta casein followed by kappa casein.”
- “Human Milk vs. Cow’s Milk and the Evolution of Infant Formulas,” by Hernell, O. Milk and Milk Products in Human Nutrition, Clemens, R.A., Hernell, O., Michaelsen, K.F., (eds). Nestlé Nutrition Institute Workshop Ser Pediatric Program, vol. 67, 17–28, Nestec Ltd., Vevey/S. Karger AG, Basel (2011).
- “Nutritive and Bioactive Proteins,” by Haschke F., Haiden, N., and Thakkar, S.K. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, vol. 69 (suppl 2), 17–26 (2016).
- “Bioactive Proteins in Human Milk: Health, Nutrition, and Implications for Infant Formulas,” by Lonnerdal, Bo. Journal of Pediatrics, vol. 173 (suppl), S4–S9 (2016).
- “Milk Proteins Are Predigested Within the Human Mammary Gland,” by Nielsen, S.D., Beverly, R.L., and Dallas, D.C. Journal of Mammary Gland Biology and Neoplasia, vol. 22, 251–261 (2017).
- “Proteomic Characterization of Specific Minor Proteins in the Human Milk Casein Fraction,” Liao, Y., Alvarado, R., Phinney, B., and Lonnerdal, B. Journal of Proteome Research, vol. 10, no. 12, 5409–5415 (2011).
If you don’t have the time or inclination to read through all these papers, Mark McAfee makes it easier for you by summarizing the following important points from them:
“I took a few hours to really look at the studies that Dr. Smilowitz sent over. It was a great refresher for so many things I had heard and seen presented in the nine years attending the IMGC conferences. One thing stood out. There is not one reference to A1 versus A2 milk protein in either human milk or bovine milks. Not one. All studies that mention A1 or A2 come from the A2 Corporation. Then to make things even worse, none of the studies can be replicated and were mostly performed in China.
“It is also very clear that opiate-like substances are found in many locations in human breast milk proteins. It was explained that it accounts for sleeping and other behaviors: ‘fragments of β-casein have been shown to have opioid activities, which may have physiological effects on behavior, such as sleep/wake cycles.’
“That is milk coma—happy sleeping babies! You want caso-opiates in your milks, cheeses, and dairy products. They make you feel good. They were put there by the evolutionary forces of nature and they serve a purpose.
“The A2 Corporation has capitalized on the extreme complexity of milk proteomics and over simplified the subject for their marketing needs. Unfortunately for them, the evidence and science are just not present to support any of their claims. Nevertheless, they have consumers believing that there are good A2 cows and bad A1 cows. They claim that Holsteins are all A1 and Jerseys are all A2. But at their Colorado dairy, A2MC milks are all Holsteins!
“Words like alpha s1 casein and alpha s2 casein describe classifications of casein (milk proteins). This is not the same nomenclature as used by the A2 Corp. BCM7 refers to beta casein, which is caso-opiate-like. The use of alpha s1 and alpha s2 is not the same as A1 or A2. One is alpha and one is beta. Hence this is the fundamental origin of the A2 Milk Corporation confusion.
“Suffice it to say that the A2MC developed its own ‘patent language’ to describe a novel protein (A1) difference in some cows and has capitalized on this one protein difference. But then they use homogenized and UHT processed milk, making that difference irrelevant at best. Science tells us that casein is stable at lower temps, but at 275–309°F UHT, it is damaged and denatured.
“The A2 Corporate marketing is at its unethical worst. Proteins are extremely complex, and the science of understanding proteins is still struggling to be completely appreciated. Within each mammal species, there are differences. Between species there are differences. The entire discussion is exceptionally specialized and exceedingly complex.
“The A2 Corp has capitalized on this ignorance. The book Devil in the Milk capitalized on consumers searching for possible answers to why their milk was hard to digest or caused sensitivities and allergic reactions. But we have spoken with many consumers who report they cannot drink A2 UHT milk for the same reasons they can’t drink any pasteurized milks.
“Stick with raw milk from cows that are pastured and milked by farmers who use high standards. That raw milk has a track record of 12,000 years. There’s a lesson here: Don’t believe everything you read, and do your own research if you want to find the truth.”
How to Use this Article
Following are several sections of information I gleaned during my own investigations. Please do not make the mistake of skipping past what may look like boring references. This is some of the research material you did not look for to begin with. It is critical for you to see how vacuous the studies are that sold this enterprise to your customers. Plus, I made it as entertaining as possible, so give it a look. You’ll see how common sense can kick in and lead you to the magicians behind the curtain.
List of Sections:
- A2 Milk Premises: The Claims
- Refutations of A2 Milk Premises (A number of substantive sources refuting those claims)
- Some Common-Sense Questions (What occurred to me while reading way too many studies)
- In Defense of Real Milk and Real Food: Champions of Food Freedom
- Remember Your Commitment to Raw Milk. (A news article reporting our victory, led by David Lynch, in getting his cow share program into Colorado law. Also includes a two-part article by Jean Bullitt Darlington from the Selene River Press Historical Archives about the corruption of dairy science.)
- About Adulterated Food: A Word from the FDA
A2 Milk Premises: The Claims
The A2 milk premises described in Devil in the Milk by Keith Woodford are as follows:
I. A1 milk causes or can increase the risk of:
- Gut inflammation
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Autism and other mental disorders
II. Out of 209 amino acids in milk, one amino acid is different in A1 milk from A2 milk. A1 has the amino acid histidine at position 67 in the chain while A2 has proline there instead. This histidine-proline is the only difference between the two chains. (Holsteins are primarily A1, Guernsey almost all A2, Jersey’s and Brown Swiss are low A1.) [Editor’s note: That means all cows are both A1 and A2. Farmers use selective breeding to try to produce cows with all A2 milk.]
The peptide beta-casomorphin, or BCM7, causes an opioid effect when it hits the small intestine. [Editor’s note: Dr. David Dallas reports that “there is no evidence that an opioid peptide from milk can survive transfer from gut to brain. Weak data.”]
According to Woodford, scientists believe A1 mutated in Europe about 8,000 years ago but don’t know why.
Refutations of A2 Milk Premises
Refutation 1. From “A2 Milk Facts,” by Gonca Pasin, PhD:
- The majority of science communities agree that there is a lack of evidence to prove A2 milk is better for health, and A2’s beneficiary effects are anecdotal and not based on credible evidence.
- Despite published studies evaluating the benefits of milk solely containing A2 proteins, no convincing evidence demonstrates its benefits over consumption of milk and dairy products containing a combination of A1 and A2 beta casein.
- Milk containing predominantly A2 beta casein is as safe and wholesome as any other milk.
Refutation 2. From “The Health Battle Behind America’s Next Milk Trend” by Linni Kral, The Atlantic, January 27, 2017:
In 2007, Woodford published a book about the dangers of A1, Devil in the Milk: Illness, Health and the Politics of A1 and A2 Milk, which boosted A2 milk sales and prompted the New Zealand Food Safety Authority and European Food Safety Authority to propose rigorous analysis of A2MC’s health claims. The EFSA’s report, issued in 2009, rejected most of the evidence. It found that in “most if not all” animal studies prior to its publication, scientists had injected BCM7 directly into their animal test subjects, rather than administering it orally, which in the EFSA’s view rendered the results irrelevant to human consumption. The review also chastised McLachlan and Elliott for being too quick to link the prevalence of chronic disease in a country to the abundance of A1 cows in that country, when disease could also be explained by factors environmental, political, or cultural. In other words, correlation does not equal causation.
More studies followed, but most could be traced back to less-than-impartial funding. A biochemist at the University of Sydney wrote an oft-quoted critical review of the A2 milk hypothesis, but later admitted to being a consultant for one of New Zealand’s largest dairy corporations, Fonterra. [Editor’s note: Dr. Dallas disagrees with this assessment. He found the EJCN study unbiased and accurate.] A 2014 study conducted in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that human subjects on an A2-only regimen reported less abdominal pain, but it was sponsored by A2MC. Even Woodford was a former consultant and shareholder in A2MC (though he sold his shares in 2007 to demonstrate his independence).
Refutation 3. “A2 milk: what’s real and what does the science say?” Conclusions from a presentation for the Oregon Dairy Industries Conference, April 2018, by David Dallas, PhD:
(Also includes some direct quotes from Dr. Dallas in an interview on January 31, 2020.)
- Studies that claimed to find an epidemiologic association between type 1 diabetes and A1 consumption were poorly done. “Correlation does not equal causation: Did not account for other factors.”
- Mice studies that A1 increased diabetes. Studies not peer reviewed, and when redone five years later were disproved.
- Increased ischemic heart disease risk associated with A1 (2003). Debunked in 2006 by two large studies. In fact, found that A1 milk might lower heart disease and stroke. A 2009 study found no evidence that A1 casein can increase CVD risk in humans.
- Milk opioid peptides increased risk of autism (2003). No peer-reviewed studies. Shot down in 2009.
- No evidence for a cause-effect relationship between A1 milk and any disease.
- A2MC no longer makes claims about heart disease, type 1 diabetes, or other diseases. Their new claims are this: A1 milk can cause gastrointestinal discomfort, and A1 beta casein can cause inflammation in the gut. [Editor’s note: Why would we believe them about this when they have never proven any of their other theories? In fact, in Ho, Woodford et al. 2014, they found no evidence for this. In any event, this is one pasteurized adulterated milk accusing another pasteurized adulterated milk.]
- Can milk opioid peptides slow intestinal transit time? “There is no evidence that an opioid peptide from milk can survive transfer from gut to brain. Weak data.”
- Is BCM7 released in A1 but not in A2 milk? More evidence needed…both A1 and A2 milk contain many other opioid peptides.
- Can A1 milk alter digestion? Bloating, abdominal, pain, flatus not significantly different. Needs replication with nonbiased funding.
- Can A1 milk cause inflammation? No difference in inflammatory markers…for humans fed A1 or A2 milk (Ho, Woodford et al. 2014) (funded by A2MC) [Editor’s note: EVEN A2MC AND WOODFORD SAY NO!
The presentation goes on and is worth reading several times.
Refutation 4. “Review of the potential health impact of β-casomorphins and related peptides.” EFSA Scientific Report (2009) 231, 5–107. Scientific Report of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA): Report of the DATEX Working Group on β-casomorphins (Question N° EFSA-Q-2008-379).
From the RECOMMENDATIONS section of this review (p. 62):
Based on the present review of available scientific literature, a cause-effect relationship between the oral intake of BCM7 or related peptides and aetiology or course of any suggested non-communicable diseases cannot be established. Consequently, a formal EFSA risk assessment of food-derived peptides is not recommended.
From the SUMMARY section of this review (p. 5):
Several different milk proteins or peptides derived from these proteins have been proposed as possible diabetogenic factors. The mechanism most often suggested is immunological. The diabetogenicity of β-casein A1, A2 and B has been evaluated in animal studies and ecological studies on humans. Animal studies have presented contradictory results.
Some ecological studies have linked the intake of BCM7 with IDDM. Ecological studies have the shortcoming of being unable to establish a cause-effect association and they cannot adjust for possible confounding factors. They are at best indicating a hypothesis but cannot provide a proper base to demonstrate a cause-effect relationship.
The correlations suggested by such studies may become very weak when taking into account the uncertainties in individual consumption, in the β-casein variant composition, and in some countries also the IDDM incidence rate.
Moreover, the difference in content of β-casein A1+B in milk produced in countries with high or low prevalence of IDDM appears relatively small and does not explain, from an immunological point of view, the difference in incidence of IDDM across countries.
Mark McAfee, Raw Milk Institute (RAWMI). This start-up nonprofit is dedicated to the establishment of raw milk standards and the education of farmers and consumers from all over the world. Mark founded RAWMI in 2010 to address the lack of uniform standards and farmer training, which has been associated with raw milk illness both in the USA and internationally.
After nine years of hard work by the board at RAWMI, and after training more than 375 farmers, two peer-reviewed, published studies now show the impact of the years of work and the positive impact of RAWMI’s mission and vision. Researchers called it the “RAWMI Effect.” The more that raw milk was consumed (357% increase), the fewer safety issues occurred (75% decrease) (Whitehead and Lake 2018).
Mark has been an expert witness in raw milk legislative and judicial proceedings across America and is recognized internationally as an expert in raw milk safety and production. In 2011, Mark pioneered the first “dietary supplements” made from fresh raw colostrum and secured their retail certification from the FDA and DHS. Along with internationally respected doctors and researchers, Mark codeveloped the first ever food safety Risk Analysis Management Program (RAMP) for raw milk. Mark is the CEO and founder of Organic Pastures Dairy Company near Fresno, CA, where the company produces and serves 50,000 consumers from 400 retail stores with state-inspected, retail approved and tested raw dairy products.
There is no one in the known universe who knows more about producing healthy raw milk than Mark McAfee. There is no one who has developed, protected, and defended the raw milk business, business owners, and consumers with more all-in, hands-on, effective action than Mark McAfee.
While writing this article, I asked Mark why he was initially tempted to consider A2 milk but then decided against it. His reply:
When our consumer line starts ringing off the hook and people want A2, you start to respond and dig deeper into the issue. At the outset, I questioned A2 because it was UHT processed. In 2005 the A2 Corp came to OPDC and asked if I would be their A2 milk herd. I told them no. I was a raw milk herd with my own brand. I did not pursue them after that.
They did not want organic and they did not want raw. They wanted to test my cows and UHT the milk in their brand. None of that worked for me at all.
A2 plus UHT was always a huge disconnect. How could a special amino acid be safe under UHT temps? All proteins are changed by heat. Honestly, it made me doubt the sanity and ethics of A2 from day one. Then I read the book. That made my case for me.
It’s nuts. After much more work and research and connection with researchers, I learned it’s a marketing scheme. No validated confirmation of any of their studies. Not one.
Refutation 6. Still Worried About Opioids?
Dr. Jared Raynes, PhD, from the Australia Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), presented at the Aarhus Demark IMGC conference in 2019, where Mark McAfee was present. Dr. Raynes studied A2 claims and could find no validity to them. He did find that A2 milk tends not to make very good cheese because it tends to not make good curds, which is why you don’t see A2 cheese in the marketplace. McAfee also learned that the A2 Milk Company sells and exports into China where they don’t do much independent testing. They just trust that companies are doing the right thing. Many of the A2MC’s tests are said to be done in China. Yet, those studies cannot be replicated and do not stand up to scientific scrutiny.
According to milk genome experts who study all kinds of milk, there are many locations on the milk amino acid protein strands that have opioid-like substances, not just the 67th allele. There are many more locations. It’s what produces what parents call a “milk coma,” that lovely state of pure bliss and sleep that a baby slips into after breast feeding.
“That amino acid is part of the protein strand for a very good reason,” McAfee notes. “It’s the casomorphin-opiates doing their natural thing. Without them, mothers would go crazy and babies would be very unhappy. The idea that BCM7 is somehow bad is a mistake and error. It’s part of the entire unfounded marketing scheme.”
Refutation 7. “The A2 milk case: a critical review,” by A.S. Truswell. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 59, 623–631 (2005).
From the Abstract:
This review outlines a hypothesis that A1, one of the common variants of β-casein, a major protein in cow’s milk, could facilitate the immunological processes that lead to type I diabetes (DM-I). It was subsequently suggested that A1 β-casein may also be a risk factor for coronary heart disease (CHD), based on between-country correlations of CHD mortality with estimated national consumption of A1 β-casein in a selected number of developed countries. A company, A2 Corporation, was set up in New Zealand in the late 1990s to test cows and market milk in several countries with only the A2 variant of β-casein, which appeared not to have the disadvantages of A1 β-casein.
The second part of this review is a critique of the A1/A2 hypothesis. For both DM-I and CHD, the between-country correlation method is shown to be unreliable and negated by recalculation with more countries and by prospective studies in individuals. The animal experiments with diabetes-prone rodents that supported the hypothesis about diabetes were not confirmed by larger, better standardised multicentre experiments. The single animal experiment supporting an A1 β-casein and CHD link was small, short, in an unsuitable animal model and had other design weaknesses.
The A1/A2 milk hypothesis was ingenious. If the scientific evidence had worked out it would have required huge adjustments in the world’s dairy industries. This review concludes, however, that there is no convincing or even probable evidence that the A1 β-casein of cow milk has any adverse effect in humans.
This review has been independent of examination of evidence related to A1 and A2 milk by the Australian and New Zealand food standard and food safety authorities, which have not published the evidence they have examined and the analysis of it. They stated in 2003 that no relationship has been established between A1 or A2 milk and diabetes, CHD or other diseases.
Some Common-Sense Questions
How do we know a mutation occurred 8,000 years ago?
Woodford claims that scientists believe this singular genetic mutation occurred 8,000 years ago (6,000 BC). Let’s see, Moses and the Exodus occurred about 3,500 years ago. Homer wrote the Odyssey about 2,800 years ago. So, 8,000 years ago? That’s 4,500 years before Moses and Homer. Meanwhile, archeologists don’t agree that the Exodus even occurred. And what about the first great literary masterpiece known on Earth, Homer’s Odyssey? Historians don’t agree that Homer even existed. But DIM speculates that Mesopotamian cows went through some genetic mutation of a single protein out of a cascade of at least 2,500 proteins to cause diabetes in the 21st century. I read the studies listed in the Cattle Genetics section of the Bibliography. I have links to all of them. They do not by any means make a definitive confirmation that any such mutation was proven.
Below is an example of the type of vague, inconclusive language used often by researchers and historians—language that authors then cite as proof of their own blockbuster hypotheses.
From “How we discovered that Europeans used cattle 8,000 years ago” (Emphasis mine):
“Even after decades of archaeological research, the specific origins of these developments in the management of domesticated animals are not well understood.”
“The precise origins of cattle as engines of labor—known as traction—is also murky.”
“Our research suggests…”
The bottom line? Believe whatever you like. It’s all conjecture and no proof. Who knows what cows are doing out there? They might look slow and plodding. They certainly don’t party like horses or goats. But who knows what kind of genetic hanky-panky they’re up to. Out there. In the pasture. At night.
Look. The oldest book in the Bible, Job, is estimated to be about 2,700 years old. No one knows its origin. Don’t you feel the wool slipping over your eyes when these A2 claims can be based on some mutation that might have occurred in a cow 8,000 years ago? How is this scientific? Maybe they’re relying on records from the Babylonian Mesopotamian Dairymen’s Association. Yeah. That’s the ticket. Or as Ron Swanson said, “History began on July 4th, 1776. Everything before that was a mistake.” Now, that you can take to the bank.
Why did the original players in this drama focus on milk as a cause of disease and gut issues?
Why didn’t they focus on pasteurization and UHT processes that destroy the function of the proteins in milk? Protein denaturation is also a consequence of cell death. Sounds delicious.
What’s with all the anecdotal evidence and rumors of people who can’t digest A1 milk but can digest A2 milk?
First of all, anecdotal is not evidentiary or scientific. Secondly, if a person told me that they get gut pain and gas after drinking milk, I would immediately ask them what kind of milk they are drinking—actual milk or adulterated milk? What else is going on, what other symptoms? What else do they eat? Do they burp, get nauseated, or have gas after meals? What if their upper digestive system isn’t operating well, so that what ends up in their gut is indigestible?
When I asked Dr. Dallas about this, he said, “The placebo effect is very strong with food preferences. What is needed are blind studies, so people have no idea what they are consuming.”
Why is the term “leaky gut” used incorrectly throughout the wholistic vernacular, infusing a sense of crisis where no crisis exists?
Actually, this shorthand slang has even contaminated some parts of the medical realm. You find “leaky gut” all over the internet and on the lips of many doctors as a lazy catchall term for irritable bowel and inflamed gut. It doesn’t add to our credibility when we confuse a life-threatening condition with a common bowel problem. So I’m taking this opportunity to restore our use of the correct terms.
If the gut is actually leaking—that is, allowing bacteria from feces to flow into the blood—you soon have sepsis. Time to die.
About Actual Leaky Gut
“Sepsis is a bigger killer than heart attacks, lung cancer or breast cancer. The blood infection is a fast killer too. A person can be a very healthy, fit individual one day and be dead the next morning.
“‘Sepsis does not discriminate. Everyone, including the youngest and fittest of us, is potentially susceptible,’ said Prof Steve Kerrigan.”
—“Warning as sepsis can kill in 12 hours,” Irish Examiner (2018)
An irritated or inflamed bowel could, in the worst-case scenario, develop into a near fatal bowel leakage into the blood. But the immune system is on full alert to prevent that catastrophe.
“The ‘leaky gut’ hypothesis postulates that intestinal bacteria, endotoxin or other substances cross the mucosal barrier and elicit a regional immune reaction at the gut level, which has the potential to spread and produce harmful effects on extra-intestinal organs.”
—“Gut failure in critical care: old school versus new school,” Annals of Gastroenterology (2015)
A leaking bowel is a worst-case scenario with catastrophic sepsis the looming prognosis. If that’s not what’s happening, then call it what it is: Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Here’s an example of the confused thinking that results from using incorrect terms:
“Our digestive lining is meant to be permeable to allow for small, appropriate-sized nutrients to pass. With a leaky gut though, the lining allows those larger molecules and bad bacteria to pass along to our bloodstream before being fully broken down. This leads to our body identifying specific foods as threats—tagging them so the next time we eat them, we have an allergic response. If those bad bacteria get through, it can lead to a life-threatening condition called sepsis.
“Controversy still exists on whether leaky gut causes the development of diseases outside the gastrointestinal tract in humans.”
When studies describe feeding lab animals milk proteins and casein, are they feeding them actual milk or extracts of milk components?
How are studies on lab rodents reliable when you’re basically force-feeding them a diet of food they don’t naturally eat, or eat in the same quantities or forms? Mice chowing down on gluten and casein—just not something you expect to see in nature. It turns out that this is one of the biggest problems with animal studies. According to Dr. Dallas, we have no idea how well a mouse’s digestion matches a human’s digestion.
Following is a common-sense observation from Sarah Pope, MGA, author of the Healthy Home Economist blog:
“Unnatural feeding of dairy cows, confinement and pasteurization/homogenization that got started early in the last century are far more likely culprits for any health issues associated with milk consumption, not cow genetics.”
In her article on A1 and A2 Milk, Sarah includes this comment from Mark McAfee:
I agree with much of what you have shared but let me help out by filling in the blanks a little. I am very close to this A2 subject matter and can help clear the air.
Dr. (Thomas) Cowan has privately apologized to me for writing the foreword to Devil in the Milk. He said that if he knew then what he knows now he would not have said what he wrote.
The A2 story is far from conclusive. Instead of “The Devil Is in the Milk,” the better statement is “The Real Devil Is in the CAFO Grain Feeding of the Cows and Processing of the Milk.”
Keep up the great teaching and nutritional work!!
Most kind regards,
Founder Organic Pastures Dairy Company
In Defense of Real Milk and Real Food: Champions of Food Freedom
That fight is never ending. Just read the Campaign for Real Milk blog for a look at the regulations that are always being proposed, ostensibly on behalf of food safety—but actually on behalf of government control, aka 100 years of layered bureaucratic swamp. There’s enough muck out there to suck down any free thinking.
But food safety is always first for small operations that are directly responsible to their own families and communities, and no other food is more scrutinized than raw milk. Again, Mark McAfee takes steps to get that safety plan to every raw milk farmer via the Raw Milk Institute (RAWMI) Common Standards: Listed farms submit test data monthly to show that they are in compliance with RAWMI Common Standards, which target a rolling three-month average of <5,000 standard plate count (SPC) and <10 coliforms per ml of raw milk. RAWMI-listed farms also submit an Annual Checklist to ensure continued low-risk optimization of their production of raw milk.
Remember Your Commitment to Raw Milk
David Lynch gets his Cow Share Program into Colorado legislation so that raw milk can be legally obtained nationwide. We were there. The first herd-share began in the United States in 1995 in Loveland, Colorado, at Guidestone CSA Farm and Center for Sustainable Living. Documented in The Untold Story of Milk.
“Pasteurized Milk: A National Menace” by James C. Thomson
This article from the Scottish periodical The Kingston Chronicle offers one of the most insightful quotes ever regarding the reality of nutrition, commerce, and science: “When dealing with highly lucrative commercial enterprises based upon dietetic and therapeutic procedures, doctors and analytical chemists are given a clear lead. They know what is expected of them…there is a market for signatures. They have only to indicate a bias in the right direction and everything is made easy. Their investigations are tailor-made and tidy beyond description. Slides and specimens from the laboratories of the cartels are provided for them; meticulously labeled and annotated Petri dishes come to them teeming with unequivocal cultures of all the best microbes. In many cases even their opinions and observations are supplied—typed out all ready for signature.” The author goes on to show how commercial dairy interests used just such tactics to shamelessly demonize raw milk and write pasteurization into the law books of the country for the purpose of profit. From The Kingston Chronicle, 1943. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 28C.
“Why Milk Pasteurization? Sowing the Seeds of Fear” by Jean Bullitt Darlington (Part I)
The first of a two-part report examining the bias in the popular press of the 1940s regarding the pros and cons of milk pasteurization. Darlington debunks several famous “scare” myths ballyhooed by the press, presenting each story as it was first reported and then as it appeared after some fact finding. This article, along with its sequel, is full of facts and examples of how health authorities grossly manipulated science and the public fear of food-borne epidemics to silence any support of certified raw milk. Includes eye-opening statistics from the U.S. Public Health Service regarding the number of outbreaks traced to both raw and pasteurized milk from 1922 to 1944. From The Rural New Yorker, 1947. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 28B.
“Why Milk Pasteurization? The Harvest Is a Barren One” by Jean Bullitt Darlington (Part II)
Part II of a series examining the myths and politics of milk pasteurization. In this article, Darlington reviews the efforts of the U.S. Public Health Service to strong arm communities throughout the country to adopt pasteurization, and he also examines closely the nature of milk production, pointing out that with the technology and equipment available at the time, safe raw milk production was not just feasible but preferable. “Pasteurization is destructive of many of the essential nutritional values in milk. The only possible defense that could ever have been offered for [it],” the author concludes, “is that it did act as a temporary expedient pending the acquisition of more knowledge of methods ensuring a safe and clean supply.” With even better methods available today, the prohibition in many states of the sale of raw milk speaks less to public safety and more to the commercial dominance of the pasteurized milk industry. From The Rural New Yorker, 1947. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 28B.
About Adulterated Food: A Word from the FDA
A food shall be deemed to be adulterated—
(b) Absence, substitution, or addition of constituents
(1) If any valuable constituent has been in whole or in part omitted or abstracted therefrom; or (2) if any substance has been substituted wholly or in part therefor; or (3) if damage or inferiority has been concealed in any manner; or (4) if any substance has been added thereto or mixed or packed therewith so as to increase its bulk or weight, or reduce its quality or strength, or make it appear better or of greater value than it is.
Both pasteurization and UHT Pasteurization coupled along with homogenization qualifies such milk, by FDA definitions, to be identified as adulterated: The destruction of multiple B vitamins, the complete loss of vitamin C, the denaturing of proteins, the decimation of fat molecules by homogenization causing a bypass of their digestion, the destruction of numerous critical milk enzymes like alkaline phosphatase, along with systematic removal of natural fat to meet minimal standards.
The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act prohibits, among other things, “The introduction or delivery for introduction into interstate commerce of any food, drug, device, or cosmetic that is adulterated or misbranded” [FD&C Act, sec. 301(a); 21 U.S.C. 331(a)].
“The History of a Crime Against the Food Law” by Harvey W. Wiley, MD
Dr. Harvey Wiley was the “father” of the famous Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906—the first law passed by the U.S. government to ensure the safety of the nation’s food supply—and he was also the first head of the U.S. Bureau of Chemistry, the federal agency charged with enforcing the law (an agency that would later become the U.S. Food and Drug Administration). In this book, which Dr. Wiley courageously published himself in 1929 and was later republished by the Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research, Dr. Wiley sets the historical record straight as to how the industrial food industry corrupted the nation’s laws and politicians in order to sell cheap, refined, adulterated, devitalized “foods.” The industry’s usurpation of federal laws and regulations regarding whole foods is an example of American politics at its worst. Originally published by H.W. Wiley, 1929. Republished by the Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research, 1955.
The devil is not in the milk…it is in cow feed and the processing of the milk. Go with science and your human experience.
Images from/NASA (original cow), Amazon (A2 Milk Carton), Mark McAfee (Mark and the cow); iStock/FatCamera (mother and baby), jodie777 (calf drinking milk), FatCamera (mother and baby),ImageDB (milk boiling in the pot), sefa ozel (businessman with money), CasPhotography (devil), Dave_Pot (boy with a stomach ache),