Elevate Difference

Whitewash: The Disturbing Truth about Cow’s Milk and Your Health

Joseph Keon’s Whitewash aims to provide enlightenment on the industrialization of dairy farms: a place where happy cows no longer exist. Keon, a wellness consultant, nutritionist and fitness expert examines the production of milk while emphasizing the negative impact it has on the health of American consumers. It also helps that John Robbins, the son of the founder and owner of Baskin-Robbins ice cream company provides endorsement in the foreword of the book.

Keon builds on the fact that bone fractures and osteoporosis rates remain higher in countries with a higher intake of calcium (like the United States) and attributes this to the inability to retain the nutrient. However, he also explores a host of other potential illnesses that milk contributes to including acne, allergies (lactose intolerance) and heart disease. However, at times his scientific truth appears to be stretched as he demonizes cow’s milk to also contribute to Crohn’s disease, cancer, and infertility, not recognizing other potential factors. He also discusses obesity and the forty billion dollar diet industry.

However, one cannot help but feel that he may be part of that industry as well as he spends a chapter endorsing veganism. At times, there is simply not enough scientific evidence to place a significant proportion of the blame on the dairy industry. It is also never considered that there may be other components of milk that are causing this reaction in humans. Unless of course you consider the poisons present in America’s favorite source of calcium.

Whitewash points out the obvious existence of pesticides and natural growth hormones in milk (it is meant for baby calves, after all). However, Keon goes a step further and discusses the existence of rabies in unpasteurized milk, a onetime incident of flame retardant being mixed in with cow’s feed and other chemicals present in milk. These brief incidents in his book only weaken his overall argument as it seems a bit overreaching since it cannot be a basis for each gallon of milk in every freezer section across America. It can be agreed though that our health, physical inactivity and overall exposure to drugs (and chemicals) can be attributed to the price that we pay for living in a modern society in comparison to the rest of the world.

Essentially, a deep analysis of other imperfect industries (for instance, chicken, livestock, and the consumption of eggs) would potentially produce similar results. Keon has demonized cow’s milk similarly to the blame placed on high fructose corn syrup and the corn industry that was initially one of the scapegoats for the obesity epidemic facing America. Additionally, the alternatives Keon provides to dairy are essentially idealistic as the consumers of cow’s milk would now be relegated to investing more money into alternatives to get vitamins A, D, K and calcium which may not be feasible. International alternatives are also not provided. If cow’s milk in the United States is so detrimental to our health, does that mean that imported powdered milk can be a replacement? This is highly unlikely since so much emphasis was placed on the fat content of the milk itself.

Whitewash may not set the ardent milk consumer straight, but it will allow us to take a second look at the fat content. However, the average low/medium income family will not be rushing out any time soon to pay higher prices for calcium alternatives. Perhaps further insight on the dairy industry itself would sway the average milk drinker into sympathizing for the unhappy cows across America.

Written by: Aneesa A. Baboolal, March 27th 2011