Food Matters – What’s in Your Milk???


Milking GoatsThe production of milk and cheese is the backbone of the dairy industry in Canada, an industry that is strictly regulated and commoditized in Canada through quota systems and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. But when milk gets processed, what else goes into the final product?

I had a couple of emails from listeners concerning what goes into our milk and cheese, fears that there may be things like pus or blood or even estrogen…these are the kinds of things that are side effects of dairy cows being treated with bovine growth hormone, otherwise known as rBST or rGBH.  The hormone increases milk production in cows. But the side effects of the growth hormone include udder infections, pus in the milk and higher levels of a hormone called ‘insulin-like growth factor’ in milk. In turn, IGF-1 in high levels in some people is blamed for causing certain types of cancers of the breast, prostate and colon. The good news is that the use of bovine growth hormone is banned in Canada, as it is in many industrialized countries. And we don’t allow imported milk or cream to be sold in Canada. Chocolate milk is the exception to that rule for some reason I haven’t determined yet.

The bad news is that BGH is legal to use in many states of the USA. And the milk from those growth hormone fed cows could be used to make Modified Milk Ingredients, which ARE allowed to be used in Canada up to certain quantities in dairy products produced here, so you could end up ingesting some of that milk produced using BGH.

ice cream packageModified Milk Ingredients can have pretty weird sounding names. Some of which you may see on packaging, but most are just put under the umbrella of Modified Milk Ingredients or Modified Milk Products. But here they are:
• skim milk powder
• milk protein concentrates
• milk protein isolates
• casein
• caseinates
• whey protein concentrates

There is also something called butteroil-sugar blend, which is a mix of modified milk ingredients and sugar. Because all of these ingredients aren’t actually milk, they are not subject to tariffs when they enter Canada and they are much cheaper to use than real milk in products like ice cream, cheeses and yogurts. And then there’s the dye that’s used in cheap cheddar cheeses to give it that orange colour. It’s an artificial dye called tartrazine, or ‘Yellow Number 5’. It’s banned in countries such as Norway and Austria because government bodies there believe it can cause hyperactivity in children, excess salt and is linked to asthma, skin rashes and migraines.

100 CanadianIf you wish to avoid these products, start by reading the labels, or course. You’ll be amazed at the different kinds of products these modified milk ingredients turn up in once you start looking. Of course artisan cheeses and ice creams made here in BC don’t have those ingredients in them and the Dairy Farmers of Canada have come up with a voluntary symbol system for food processors and manufacturers who use 100 percent Canadian milk in their products. It’s a white cow on a blue background with a blue maple leaf on the side of the cow and 100% Canadian Milk written underneath the cow. I’ll put a link to the 100% Canadian Milk website on my blog so you can see what the symbol looks like.  We grow up thinking that milk products are good for us for a number of different reasons, but I guess you still have to be vigilant about what goes into your dairy…and I haven’t even touched on the raw milk controversy that has been going on in Canada for the past few years, I think that will have to come up on a future Food Matters.

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12 Responses to Food Matters – What’s in Your Milk???

  1. susan says:

    Thanks for all the info on this issue – lest we forget. When you mentioned that the US allows BGH I thought of the shopper crossing the border into Washington for dairy products. Another reason to shop close to home!

  2. Ella Baker says:

    Published studies regarding the effects of rBST on the health of cattle showed the increase in milk output also lead to the increased risk of clinical mastitis. Cows also decreased fertility by 40% and the development of lameness increased by 55%. The report also stated that rBST should not be used for it’s health risks on cattle and potential effects from the consumption of rBST milk.

  3. Chelsea G. says:

    I looked at the cheddar cheeses in Thrifty’s the other day, and I couldn’t find one that didn’t have modified milk ingredients in it! Drat. Does anyone know of a cheddar that doesn’t have MMI? Thanks.

  4. Becky says:

    What about antibiotics in Canadian milk?

    • Don Genova says:

      If Canadian cows get sick, they can be treated with antibiotics, but they are taken out of the producing herd of cows until they get better and the antibiotics have left their system.

  5. Christina says:

    I emailed Chapmans ice cream here in Ontario asking if they made any ice cream without modified milk. There response was “when we remove some fat from the milk it is now modified milk”. What the heck?

    • Don Genova says:

      Hi Christina, if Chapman has a ‘100% Canadian Dairy’ sticker on their containers, it means they are not using any modified milk products from outside of Canada. Those are the only ones you really need to worry about. Their response was silly, they should have realized you were wondering about ‘modified milk products’. To reiterate, MMP’s from America could contain Bovine Growth Hormone.

  6. Erin Lindsay says:

    Thank you so much for the article! A lot of my friends have been spouting the information from the US as truth (the using horomone injections and the such). As a granddaughter of someone who owned a dairy farm dispelling these rumors from my friends’ minds has been a lot harder than it should be. I’ll be sure to send them here!

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