By Robert Cohen Executive Director Text Only



I thought that I was beyond being shocked
about the extent of sickness on America's
dairy farms. Today's column contains a
most disgusting revelation, guaranteed to
make you choke and gag on your next slurp
of ice cream.

The current issue of Hoard's Dairyman,
(Volume 147, number 4), the self proclaimed
"National Dairy Farm Magazine," contains a
revelation that surprised even me.

Ads are supposed to promote products, and
I suppose this one does. It advertises a test
for one very serious cow disease. This ad
most certainly does not promote the dairy
industry's objective of trying to convince
you that their product is wholesome.

The editors of the February 25, 2002 issue
must have been counting the money and
ignoring possible repercussions from the
half-page ad which appears on page 150.
The ad shows cows in a field, and challenges
the reader in a bold type statement:

"You Can't Tell By Looking"

The text of the ad reveals that "most dairy
herds are affected by bovine leukemia virus."

What? America drinks body fluids from cows
with leukemia?

I knew that bovine leukemia is a problem, but
I had no idea of the extent of that problem.
According to the ad, 89% of the dairy herds in
the United States have cows infected with leukemia.

Sally Fallon proposes that you drink raw milk.
Her website is:

Sally may realize how futile her mission is
when she sees this advertisement.

In my own neighborhood of northeast Bergen County,
New Jersey, we have two major milk suppliers,
Tuscan Farms and Farmland. Each of the two dairy processors
buys and pools milk from an average of 600 New York,
Pennsylvania, and New Jersey farms. On average,
534 of the 600 farms have cows infected with leukemia.

What happens if they incorrectly pasteurize the milk?
What happens to those drinking raw milk? I shudder
at the thought.

Here is an excerpt from a letter written by breast
cancer surgeon, Robert Kradjian, M.D., to his patients:

"Unfortunately, when the milk is pooled, a very large
percentage of all milk produced is contaminated (90 to 95
per cent). Of course the virus is killed in pasteurisation--
if the pasteurisation was done correctly. What if the milk
is raw? In a study of randomly collected raw milk samples
the bovine leukemia virus was recovered from two-thirds.
I sincerely hope that the raw milk dairy herds are
carefully monitored when compared to the regular herds.
(Science 1981; 213:1014).

This is a world-wide problem. One lengthy study from
Germany deplored the problem and admitted the impossibility
of keeping the virus from infected cows' milk from the
rest of the milk. Several European countries, including
Germany and Switzerland, have attempted to "cull" the
infected cows from their herds. Certainly the United
States must be the leader in the fight against leukemic
dairy cows, right? Wrong! We are the worst in the world
with the former exception of Venezuela according to
Virgil Hulse MD, a milk specialist who also has a B.S. in
Dairy Manufacturing as well as a Master's degree in Public

As mentioned, the leukemia virus is rendered inactive by
pasteurisation. Of course. However, there can be Chernobyl
like accidents. One of these occurred in the Chicago area
in April, 1985. At a modern, large, milk processing plant
an accidental "cross connection" between raw and pasteurised
milk occurred. A violent salmonella outbreak followed,
killing 4 and making an estimated 150,000 ill. Now the
question I would pose to the dairy industry people is
this: "How can you assure the people who drank this milk
that they were not exposed to the ingestion of raw,
unkilled, bully active bovine leukemia viruses?" Further,
it would be fascinating to know if a "cluster" of leukemia
cases blossoms in that area in 1 to 3 decades. There are
reports of "leukemia clusters" elsewhere, one of them
mentioned in the June 10, 1990 San Francisco Chronicle
involving No. California.

What happens to other species of mammals when they are
exposed to the bovine leukemia virus? It's a fair question
and the answer is not reassuring. Virtually all animals
exposed to the virus develop leukemia. This includes
sheep, goats, and even primates such as rhesus monkeys
and chimpanzees. The route of transmission includes
ingestion (both intravenous and intramuscular) and cells p
resent in milk. There are obviously no instances of
transfer attempts to human beings, but we know that the
virus can infect human cells in vitro. There is evidence
of human antibody formation to the bovine leukemia virus;
this is disturbing. How did the bovine leukemia virus
particles gain access to humans and become antigens?
Was it as small, denatured particles?

If the bovine leukemia viruses causes human leukemia,
we could expect the dairy states with known leukemic
herds to have a higher incidence of human leukemia.

Is this so? Unfortunately, it seems to be the case!
Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin
have statistically higher incidence of leukemia than
the national average. In Russia and in Sweden, areas
with uncontrolled bovine leukemia virus have been linked
with increases in human leukemia. I am also told that
veterinarians have higher rates of leukemia than the
general public. Dairy farmers have significantly
elevated leukemia rates. Recent research shows
lymphocytes from milk fed to neonatal mammals gains
access to bodily tissues by passing directly through
the intestinal wall.

An optimistic note from the University of Illinois,
Ubana from the Department of Animal Sciences shows
the importance of one's perspective. Since they are
concerned with the economics of milk and not primarily
the health aspects, they noted that the production
of milk was greater in the cows with the bovine
leukemia virus. However when the leukemia produced a
persistent and significant lymphocytosis (increased
white blood cell count), the production fell off. They
suggested "...a need to re-evaluate the economic impact
of bovine leukemia virus infection on the dairy
industry." Does this mean that leukemia is good for
profits only if we can keep it under control? You can
get the details on this business concern from Proc.
Nat. Acad. Sciences, U.S. Feb. 1989. I added emphasis
and am insulted that a university department feels that
this is an economic and not a human health issue. Do not
expect help from the Department of Agriculture or the
universities. The money stakes and the political pressures
are too great. You're on you own.

What does this all mean? We know that virus is capable
of producing leukemia in other animals. Is it proven that
it can contribute to human leukemia (or lymphoma, a
related cancer)? Several articles tackle this one:

1."Epidemiologic Relationships of the Bovine Population
and Human Leukemia in Iowa". Am Journal of Epidemiology
112 (1980): 80

2."Milk of Dairy Cows Frequently Contains a Leukemogenic
Virus". Science 213 (1981): 1014

3."Beware of the Cow". (Editorial) Lancet 2 (1974):30

4."Is Bovine Milk A Health Hazard?". Pediatrics; Suppl.
Feeding the Normal Infant. 75:182-186; 1985

In Norway, 1422 individuals were followed for 11 and a
half years. Those drinking 2 or more glasses of milk per
day had 3.5 times the incidence of cancer of the lymphatic
organs. British Med. Journal 61:456-9, March 1990.

One of the more thoughtful articles on this subject is
from Allan S. Cunningham of Cooperstown, New York.
Writing in the Lancet, November 27, 1976 (page 1184),
his article is entitled, "Lymphomas and Animal-Protein
Consumption". Many people think of milk as "liquid meat"
and Dr. Cunningham agrees with this. He tracked the
beef and dairy consumption in terms of grams per day for
a one year period, 1955-1956., in 15 countries. New
Zealand, United States and Canada were highest in that
order. The lowest was Japan followed by Yugoslavia and
France. The difference between the highest and lowest
was quite pronounced: 43.8 grams/day for New Zealanders
versus 1.5 for Japan. Nearly a 30-fold difference!
(Parenthetically, the last 36 years have seen a startling
increase in the amount of beef and milk used in Japan and
their disease patterns are reflecting this, confirming
the lack of "genetic protection" seen in migration
studies. Formerly the increase in frequency of lymphomas
in Japanese people was only in those who moved to the USA)!

Cunningham found a highly significant positive correlation
between deaths from lymphomas and beef and dairy ingestion
in the 15 countries analysed. A few quotations from his
article follow:

The average intake of protein in many countries is far in
excess of the recommended requirements. Excessive
consumption of animal protein may be one co-factor in the
causation of lymphomas by acting in the following manner.
Ingestion of certain proteins results in the adsorption
of antigenic fragments through the gastrointestinal mucous

This results in chronic stimulation of lymphoid tissue to
which these fragments gain accessÂ…Chronic immunological
stimulation causes lymphomas in laboratory animals and is
believed to cause lymphoid cancers in men. The
gastrointestinal mucous membrane is only a partial barrier
to the absorption of food antigens, and circulating
antibodies to food protein is commonplace especially potent
lymphoid stimulants. Ingestion of cows' milk can produce
generalized lymphadenopathy, hepatosplenomegaly, and
profound adenoid hypertrophy. It has been conservatively
estimated that more than 100 distinct antigens are
released by the normal digestion of cows' milk which evoke
production of all antibody classes [This may explain why
pasteurized, killed viruses are still antigenic and can
still cause disease.

Here's more. A large prospective study from Norway was
reported in the British Journal of Cancer 61 (3):456-9,
March 1990. (Almost 16,000 individuals were followed for
11 and a half years). For most cancers there was no
association between the tumour and milk ingestion.
However, in lymphoma, there was a strong positive
association. If one drank two glasses or more daily (or
the equivalent in dairy products), the odds were 3.4
times greater than in persons drinking less than one
glass of developing a lymphoma."

Doesn't every consumer have the right to know this

Please share this column with a friend.

Robert Cohen author of:   MILK A-Z>
Executive Director (
Dairy Education Board

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