No meat=murder?
March 30, 2003 12:46 PM   Subscribe

The vegan diet can be a killer, at least that's what the State of New York thinks. Was a "strict vegan diet" the cause of a 15-month-old's demise or did New York health officials have a hand in the death?
posted by Bag Man (51 comments total)
damn hippies
posted by tiamat at 12:50 PM on March 30, 2003

Intelligent comment there, tiamat.

This isn't about the vegan diet. This is about parents who simply didn't have a clue about how to look after a baby. The fact that they are possibly looking at a 25 year sentence beggars belief. They needed help, long before the baby got to that state.
posted by salmacis at 1:03 PM on March 30, 2003

What I don't understand, is this: if she thought commercial formula was so bad, and she wanted to what was best for her child, why the hell wasn't she breastfeeding?
posted by eilatan at 1:20 PM on March 30, 2003

earlier discussion here

basically salmacis summed it up. This was bad parenting, not veganism. Most babies are not introduced to (cow) dairy products or meat until they're around 8 months old, to start with. Etc.. see all the arguments in the old thread.
posted by mdn at 1:23 PM on March 30, 2003

Obviously, any diet can be dangerous if it is created without any knowledge of proper nutrition and the fact that the parents in the article "swore off" traditional medicine gives me the impression that these were not knowledgeable people. There are many people who follow a diet of high quantities of fatty foods, but because they die over forty years, nobody realizes the dangers.

A few years ago I became interested in going on a vegetarian diet, but since I had no idea about nutrition, I consulted a doctor of mine and a nutritionist at my University. After getting a lot of information from these sources, I put together a diet that has worked out for several years now. I do know of people that, on a whim, started a vegetarian or a vegan diet and ended up very sick within weeks or months.
posted by crazy finger at 1:25 PM on March 30, 2003

I was working as a contributing writer and editor for Vegetarian Times and Better Nutrition magazines at the time that story came out (the editorial offices are above the corporate HQ of the magazine's owners Sabot Publishing in Glen Allen, VA). IIRC, the BN editor may have mentioned the story in an editorial, but VT wouldn't touch it. VT's new editor had alienated enough readers as it was with her repurposing of the magazine as Gourmet for people who want to go meatless, so weighing in on the vegan baby story probably would have made things worse.
posted by emelenjr at 2:02 PM on March 30, 2003

Just to clarify, the child is not dead. She may have gotten close to death, though. According to the article:

Ice, now 2 1/2 , and her infant brother, Ini, now live with other relatives.
posted by beth at 2:14 PM on March 30, 2003

'Silva Swinton's testimony, which is to continue Monday morning, was the dramatic high point of the two-week trial. When her name was called as the next witness, the slender 5-foot-10-inch woman with five earrings in her left ear and a silver stud in her chin rose from the defense table and walked without hesitation to the witness box, the two-inch heels of her shiny black boots clicking as she went.

Joseph Swinton watched his wife's progress. He is not expected to take the stand before testimony concludes next week. A defense psychologist told jurors Thursday that he has a seventh-grade education and an IQ of 78, putting him on the borderline of mental retardation. His wife, however, has taken a bevy of college classes, including math, science and literature.

Who's playing the mother? Madge? Courtney?

I just know that someone, somewhere is pounding out a 'treatment' right now...
posted by dash_slot- at 2:19 PM on March 30, 2003

This is the part that sticks im my craw :
"A woman accused of nearly starving her daughter to death with a strict vegan diet testified Friday that the little girl was healthy before social services intervened. "

Well ya know i challenge you to find a vegan that says a vegan diet might be unhealthly. You wont find one. Why? Because is like a damned religion. Of course she's going to say the girl was healthy, how could she *not* be healthy on an authoritian 'healthy' vegan diet.

To summarize, "well they tell me the vegan diet is healthy, therefore my baby who is a vegan must be healthy", she cant conceive of anything else. No oher possibilities exist in her world.
posted by MrLint at 2:48 PM on March 30, 2003

Of course she's going to say the girl was healthy, how could she *not* be healthy on an authoritian 'healthy' vegan diet.

Parents who starve their children rarely think their child looks unhealthy, just like anorexics rarely think they look unhealthy.

In fact, the mother became a vegan to lose weight, not for philosophical reasons - that article says she weighed "close to 300 lbs" and lost "177 lbs", which means this 5'10" woman weighs under 123 lbs, which sounds borderline anorexic to me...
posted by mdn at 3:14 PM on March 30, 2003

Swinton disputed what is perhaps the most damning piece of evidence against the couple, a photograph that witnesses have said depicts Ice shortly after she arrived at the hospital. The photo shows a baby girl with her face turned away from the camera. The child's arms and legs are pale and spindly and the child's abdomen is swollen in what doctor's testified was a tell-tale sign of hunger.

Okay. Why exactly didn't her lawyer have some of the family's baby photos submitted into evidence? Wouldn't such photos have "proven" the child looked healthy mere weeks/months earlier? Does the family not believe in photography, or are the photos equally damning?

And yes, if they were serious about "vegan good doctors bad" thing, the kid should have been breast fed. Perfect food for baby humans, thousands of years of evidence, no animal testing.
posted by ilsa at 4:45 PM on March 30, 2003

Who packs an ice pick for personal protection and names their kid Ice?
posted by jessicool at 5:08 PM on March 30, 2003

Veganism deadlier than vegetarianism

The link goes to an article showing that vegans are the shortest-lived group among those that restrict their meat eating (all of whom outlive frequent meat eaters): "...within the group, for every 100 deaths among vegans, there were 66 among vegetarians and 60 among occasional meat eaters."
posted by NortonDC at 6:27 PM on March 30, 2003

What I don't understand, is this: if she thought commercial formula was so bad, and she wanted to what was best for her child, why the hell wasn't she breastfeeding?

Can vegan babies breastfeed? Isn't breast milk technically an animal product?
posted by Frank Grimes at 6:50 PM on March 30, 2003

oh good lord. when will the vegan bashers give up !
posted by kv at 7:31 PM on March 30, 2003

Can vegan babies breastfeed? Isn't breast milk technically an animal product?

You would think it would still be encouraged...after all, it is the most natural thing a mother could give her child, and most vegans/vegitarians are generally concerned about health.

But, until your comment, I'd never really thought about it, either. (Not being a vegan.)
posted by dejah420 at 7:40 PM on March 30, 2003

oh good lord. when will the vegan bashers give up !

Don't have have to--we'll just outlive them.
posted by NortonDC at 7:49 PM on March 30, 2003

Can vegan babies breastfeed? ... until your comment, I'd never really thought about it, either.

This is a common question that the media coverage has fumbled. So let's just get the record straight before we go any further.

1. Breastfeeding is Perfectly Consistent With Veganism. Any mother who elects not to breastfeed must find something other than veganism to blame it on.

2. CNN and other new sources have wrongly used the phrase "strict vegan diet." Ice was fed cod liver oil - a very definitely animal-derived food - which makes the diet not "strictly vegan," not "loosely vegan," not even "vegetarian" by most logical definitions. The fact that these wackos call this "vegan" and it gets reported as such without any fact-checking shows how far the mainstream is from being able to address food issues dispassionately.

Actual vegan children are being raised in America and elsewhere every day and are thriving, while their non-vegan counterparts are increasingly suffering from heart disease and Type II diabetes, previously thought to afflict only adults. If it's a question of ONE bad-caretaker incident defining the risk to a lifestyle, why isn't milk against the law?

Well ya know i challenge you to find a vegan that says a vegan diet might be unhealthly. You wont find one.

Challenge accepted. Michael Gregor and Jack Norris, just for starters, have both spoken extensively on the topics of how a vegan diet can be unhealthy and what should be done to maximize its health benefits. What did I win?

MrLint also brings us this gem:

Because is like a damned religion.

There's a kernel of truth in that. Like anything that is outside the mainstream and is reviled by the mainstream, veganism can inspire a defensive chauvinism against the relentless onslaughts from the "outside," and some people can get carried away with that attitude. Something like that obviously happened in this case, though I'd say there was something beyond mere veganism in this couple's history that turned them into crackpots.

The real problem, however, is that there is still not enough access to solid information about food choices, as our (America's, anyway) media channels are saturated with pro-animal-food noise. When there is wider dissemination of accurate information, there will be more vegans, and healthier ones among those who are (although it should also be pointed out that a great many vegans are only in it for the ethics). That won't happen, though, while we have "journalistic" outlets writing about "veganism" without even checking to find out what it really is.
posted by soyjoy at 8:58 PM on March 30, 2003

I am always very leery of vegans/vegetarians who subscribe to these diets for weight loss reasons. In my [very limited] experience, it is often an easy way to disguise severe anorexia — after all, if someone simply refuses to eat, it raises eyebrows, but if he or she refuses to eat because 'none of this is vegan,' who is going to argue?

I am also leery of people who force these diets on their children. Metabolisms differ. Most vegetarians I know tell me they didn't enjoy red meat much even when they ate it. I can't imagine going without red meat, and was diagnosed with severe anemia (to the point where my doctor expressed surprise that I was able to walk under my own power) even when I was eating a half-pound or so of beef a day, every day, in addition to other foods. I eat fatty, greasy diner food daily, as well as lots of junk food and chocolate; I am still told I look unhealthily skinny, and I am constantly hungry. I suspect if my parents had tried to raise me as a vegetarian it would have gone badly.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 10:17 PM on March 30, 2003

She said she and Joseph bought a home maternity kit containing sterile clothes and directions and prepared by reading books, including "Be Your Own Pediatrician," and watching episodes of the cable television shows "Maternity Ward" and "A Baby Story."

I can't believe they didn't cover proper nutrition for newborns on "A Baby Story"! And they call themselves The Learning Channel.
posted by brittney at 12:30 AM on March 31, 2003

I suspect if my parents had tried to raise me as a vegetarian it would have gone badly.

If your parents had done so with a learned intention to be sure that you were eating a properly balanced diet, were getting sufficient vitamins and minerals, adequate iron and protein, and enjoying a variety of foods within the non-meat spectrum, it could have done quite well. All of my children have been raised with a vegetarian diet and are healthy and thriving, meeting milestones as expected and growing like the proverbial weeds.

But it's not easy. It's not something you can figure out from reading just one book, or by watching television. Its nothing something you can be lazy about, either. Meals are carefully planned; mass-produced frozen meals, take-out and fast food alternatives are limited. It's not something to undertake lightly, but for those who are dedicated to doing it well, the results are truly worth the work.
posted by Dreama at 12:42 AM on March 31, 2003

If it's a question of ONE bad-caretaker incident defining the risk to a lifestyle, why isn't milk against the law?

This isn't about "lifestyle", it's about child abuse. This child would have been equally badly-off had it been raised by the carnivore equivalent of these cultie parents.
posted by biscotti at 12:55 AM on March 31, 2003

Based on some other dietary reading I've done, I think that soyjoy's Herald-Tribune article might not be trust-worthy. "The Soft Science of Dietary Fat" by Gary Taubes is an excellently researched piece on the fundamental problems with the American view of nutrition, based on a few key pieces of bad research conducted some forty years ago and reinforced by an intense status quo. The basic thesis is that fat doesn't cause heart disease, and that the high-carb diet that usually results from the removal of fat from one's diet may be what has brought the American public to its present state of obesity.

Perhaps the most interesting piece of research cited in this article is on the so-called Medditerranean diet. Apparently, the people of Greece have some of the lowest rates of heart disease in the world. Their diet is very well rounded, and doesn't seek to get rid of fats or anything else, instead using just about everything (except maybe sugar) liberally.
posted by kaibutsu at 3:56 AM on March 31, 2003

Well I know a few vegans and none of them would dream of trying to feed a baby this way. If they couldn't or didn't breast feed they would have used a good commercial soy formula. In fact while she was pregnant she actually went back to dairy products for a while to ensure she got enough calcium( and the cravings,oh yes the cravings)
posted by hoopyfrood at 5:27 AM on March 31, 2003

kaibutsu, you have got to be kidding me. The IHT piece I linked to was just one - the most recent I could quickly grab - of literally hundreds of articles mentioning the role of animal fats in Westerners' health liabilities. This is not exactly a controversy.

Controversy, however, is Gary Taubes's middle name - or at least his motivating force - and he's succeeded in getting a lot of attention for "exposing" stuff mainstream nutritionists have already been saying. Such as, "not all fat is bad for you!" Wow, really? Well, which fat is? Oh, saturated fat - the kind found primarily in animal products. What kind of fat is good? Oh, monounsaturated fats like in olive oil, nuts and seeds. (Trans fats, a product of processing food, can be found in both animal-based and plant-based food products.) You might also be interested in how Taubes lies about and misrepresents his sources, according to CNN and the Washington Post.

As to the mediterranean diet, funny how these healthy people eat pasta and bread in large quantities and animal products in small quantities, ain't it?
posted by soyjoy at 8:03 AM on March 31, 2003

Dreama: It's not something to undertake lightly, but for those who are dedicated to doing it well, the results are truly worth the work.

Sooo true. If you can't take/make the time to cook, going vegan is probably not the healthy choice for you. Th' wife has been taking me down the vegan road lately (call it 90-95% of my meals) and I feel great. we've found a lot of great recipes in this book: Vegan Planet. Nutritionally complete yummers, with no sign of punishment food* so far.

*An example of punishment food: anything that replaces cocoa with carob. Carob is just nasty, and the people who eat it only do so to show how hardcore they are. Uh, that's IMHO, natch.
But I'm right.

posted by PinkStainlessTail at 8:37 AM on March 31, 2003

There is no known existing human culture that was %100 vegan untill modern times. In fact even those that traditionally ate a lot of veggies also ate a lot of bugs and eggs in non-sanitary conditions (which contain B12). Even cows are not vegan they eat all the insects in the grass. It would be hard to find a true non-meat eating animal ever in history untill humans invented it very recently. It is simply not a natural state of affairs at least as practiced by most vegetarians. Not saying its wrong, just saying what it is: a cultural invention.
posted by stbalbach at 3:41 PM on March 31, 2003

In tests of the fats clogging arteries from heart patients %75 of the fat is polyunsaturated (vegtable). Theres lots of evidence that cholesterol and saturated animal fats are not the problem, rather the processing of vegtable fats. It should come as no suprise that after the invention of margerine in WWI and the liberal use of new forms of previously non-existent vegtable oils in the western diet we started having an epidemic of heart problems which previously were almost unknow. This includes amoung young people. It is all supportable by studies however the vegtable oil industry is much more powerful in the USA then the beef industry so it won the battle over what causes heart disease. One has to wonder why in more traditional cultures that don't have processed foods they just don't have these problems even though they eat lots of saturated fats.
posted by stbalbach at 3:51 PM on March 31, 2003

stbalbach, do you have links about that? Is it just certain vegetable oils or all? olive oil and corn oil seem like completely different things to me, eg...
posted by mdn at 6:16 PM on March 31, 2003

Not saying its wrong, just saying what it is: a cultural invention.

is evolution ever a "cultural invention"?

is evolution therefore "not a natural state of affairs"?
posted by kv at 6:19 PM on March 31, 2003

stbalbach - Don't worry, I would not argue that veganism is the "natural" human state. I generally follow George Eisman's speculation that we are naturally "scavengers," organisms designed to capitalize on a variety of possible food sources we might come across. (Sure, since we're not eating bugs now, we should get supplemental B12.) So yeah, 100% veganism is a "cultural invention," as of course is the excessive-animal-product-based Standard American Diet. The question is which cultural invention is a better choice. For me, it's the one that's healthier, more environmentally sound, less cruel, etc. but someone else might choose differently. The problem comes when meat-eaters attempt to use "it's not natural" to discredit an eating pattern that is much closer to the way most humans have eaten than is the way most Westerners eat.

Still, I don't think we're that far apart on that issue. But you really lose me here...

It is all supportable by studies however the vegtable oil industry is much more powerful in the USA then the beef industry so it won the battle over what causes heart disease.

This sounds a little like a conspiracy theory, so I have to second mdn's request for the studies you say support this. Yes, polyunsaturated fats are definitely not as good as monounsaturated, and real health-kick vegans try to eliminate all polyunsaturated oils. But there are reams of studies (new ones practically every day) detailing exactly how and why saturated fats work against us, so I'd be interested to see a similarly large body of evidence exonerating them. Oh, wait, the all-powerful vegetable oil industry (which must be even more powerful because unlike the beef/dairy industry it's able to exert its influence without having the USDA constantly stacked with its lobbyists) has suppressed all of those studies. OK, never mind.
posted by soyjoy at 7:44 PM on March 31, 2003

Breastfeeding is Perfectly Consistent With Veganism.

Cool to know. There were a couple of vegetarian couples in my breastfeeding class, but no vegans. And in discussions with the vegetarians, they said that when it came to their infant's diet, that they would follow the recommendations of their pediatrician and a trained nutritionist. I believe they were vegetarians more because it was healthier for them, than because they ethically didn't want to eat food with faces.

I'm an omnivore, and I craved red meat like crazy when I was pregnant. But, even though I'm a meat eater, and the little one isn't even ready to give up boobs for a spoonful of smushed peas, when I do put him on solids, we probably won't introduce meat until he's well over a year old...because that's what's recommended by the nice medical people.
posted by dejah420 at 8:22 PM on March 31, 2003

Here is a list of references for material that is not politically correct when it comes to nutrition. Politically correct nutrition does not always mean healthy, although they pay untold amounts to create the studies that show it to be. Remember this: studies cost money. The people creating the studies have a desired outcome in mind otherwise they would not spend the money. If the study is the outcome they want, they publish. If not, the study doesn't see the light of day. Studies can be designed and implemented to have desired results. Who funded the study is the telling indicator of how to interpret the results. For example how many pro-alcohol studies have we seen funded by alcohol companies?

I will admit my beef industry versus vegetable oil conspiracy theory may be just that however I do know it is a strong lobby in Washington mostly supported by the multinational large farming concerns who are interested in finding new ways to sell crop foods to the world which has geopolitical effects in the world power balance. If they had their way we would all be driving vegetable oil powered cars and everything we eat would be made from soy, corn or wheat grown in the USA with lots and lots of processing to increase the profits. The beef industry is strong but not as strong as the farmers.
posted by stbalbach at 9:51 PM on March 31, 2003

Here is a list of references for material that is not politically correct when it comes to nutrition.

Ya know, I thought, about ten seconds after posting, that I should've added "and please don't send links to Weston Price stuff." Sorry I didn't save you the effort.

Call me crazy, but I prefer to get my nutritional information from nutritionists - not from my, um, dentist. Yeah, I know, I know, all "mainstream" nutritionists are corrupted by the grand vegetable-oil cabal into being "politically correct" rather than truthful.

I can certainly agree with the sentiment behind this - I'm familiar with the powerful lobbies behind our food guidelines and how research is promoted or quashed. But that said, I don't see any evidence of the "powerful vegetable oil lobby" concept. What I see on your user page is mostly links (some now defunct, BTW) to books by Weston Price devotees. To support the point, there'd need to be reputable sources reporting actual conflicts of interest and/or detailing who is influencing policy as well as actions taken that reflect such influence. Failing that, I'd wanna see a boatload of peer-reviewed research that contradicts the boatload now available detailing the benefits of plant-based nutrition.
posted by soyjoy at 7:57 AM on April 1, 2003

Well it seems like the only complaint you have about Price is he is a Dentist. Consider that many great discoveries were made by people outside their field because they saw things in a new way history is full of examples. Price did a lot of groundbreaking nutritional research in the 1930s and his "devotees" are all solid lipid and nutritional scientists. Not to mention we are finding the health of our teeth is in direct relation to overall health. Price was the first to look at other cultures and ask "what are they doing diffrent that makes them healthy" and then do a world-wide survey of those cultures, many of which are no longer in existence. It would be a mistake to discount his work simply because he looked at nutrition from the viewpoint of dental health any less then we currently look at nutrition as a reflection of coronary health.

With that said I would recommend to take a look at some of those books including Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, and, Know Your Fats by Mary Enig.
posted by stbalbach at 6:51 PM on April 1, 2003

Thanks. I've looked into Weston Price through the lens of Sally Fallon and others, and I see plenty of prosletyzing, plenty of charges made about the nutrition establishment, but precious little peer-reviewed evidence that actually contradicts it. Perhaps Enig's book has more credible examples; I'm not familiar with that one.

But no, dental health and coronary health are not just equally valid "viewpoints" into nutrition - you can lose your teeth, but if you lose your heart you're dead. One of these areas is a little more central to the overall health of the body. I don't think it's too much to ask of an "expert," especially one bucking decades of research by a body of scientists, that they have some qualifications in the area they're actually writing about. I guess that's something we won't agree on.
posted by soyjoy at 9:57 PM on April 1, 2003

You won't die if you lose your teeth, but it could still be a sign of poor nutrition, don't you think?

Is the weston price contingent ridiculed by other nutritionists? Do they answer the claims put forth? The articles you linked didn't seem to be directly responding to the claims stbalbach was making & I'm not familiar with this group.

I'm a vegetarian, I avoid processed food, and I eat eggs pretty regularly. "good" fats like avocado, nuts, olive oil, etc, I don't worry about at all, but I try not to overdo it on carbs. If someone had the same diet as me but included organic meat, I'd imagine that would be healthy. The biggest health issue is probably all the processed food, more than the inclusion or exclusion of meat.

The vegetable oil conspiracy sounds ridiculous until you remember it's corn farmers - that is a large group, and corn syrup or corn oil is in just about everything. But no one thinks corn syrup is good for you... so they've dropped the ball there :)
posted by mdn at 6:01 AM on April 2, 2003

mdn - yeah, avoiding processed food is certainly the way to go. stbalbach and I have no disagreement there; I'll even give props to Weston Price for being among those raising this issue early on (but not alone, as is frequently misreported). My links were specifically addressing the "vegetable oil conspiracy" in comparison with the very real, well-documented domination of our gov't food programs by the meat and dairy industries. There are plenty of powerful food lobbies (sugar is right up there with meat and dairy) seeking to pervert our nutritional guidelines to their purpose, but I'm still waiting for any evidence that, say, corn farmers have more clout than the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, as stbalbach asserted.

As for Price himself, I'm not disregarding him because he was a dentist, but because he wasn't a nutritionist (or an epidemiologist). Most of his groundbreaking work was done anecdotally, through observation and conjecture, and instead of being replicated in scientific settings, his followers constantly fall back on citations from his main book. Again, I'm still waiting for something backing up Fallon's and others' claims that animal fat has some mystery ingredient essential to human health that plant foods lack.

Here's one dissent that points out some of the, um, irregularities in these folks' arguments...

The Price Foundation says “Both raw and pasteurized milk harbor bacteria, but the bacteria in raw milk is the healthy bacteria of lactic-acid fermentation while the bacteria in pasteurized milk is the bacteria of spoilage.” This, of course, is unadulterated claptrap. Putting raw milk out in the sun for a few hours will quickly prove that it, too, contains the “bacteria of spoilage.”

Nor does the Price Foundation seem to understand that several families of foodborne bacteria have evolved more dangerous cousins in the last half-century. The U.S. Public Health Service says four of these (Campylobacter jejuni, Salmonella typhimurium, Listeria monocytogenes and E. coli O157:H7) are the most serious foodborne pathogens in America. These virulent bacteria can do far more than cause a stomachache. E. coli O157, for example, can kill even healthy people and cause permanent organ damage even in its survivors. It attacked five kids in Vancouver, Canada, last year; after they drank goat’s milk from a cooperative farm; two suffered permanent liver damage. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says O157 is endemic throughout the nation’s cattle herds, almost certainly including Farmer Wightman’s dairy cows.

An outbreak of Salmonella in ice cream sickened more than 200,000 Americans in 1994. More than 30 Californians got the more-virulent form of salmonella from unpasteurized cheese in 1997. Fifty people were sickened by Campylobacter jejuni in raw milk at a Minnesota church social in 1992.

In the 1990s, Massachusetts even reported two incidents of potential mass raw-milk exposures to rabies! Two different cows in different herds were diagnosed with rabies, and 80 people who drank their raw milk had to take the painful series of rabies shots.

In short... if you lose all your hair, it could certainly be a sign of poor nutrition. But that doesn't mean "hair-based nutrtition" is as valid as "heart-based." Until someone can show how focusing on the main organ where bodily health is centered is somehow off-base, I'm gonna have to give more credence to the decades of mainstream nutritional research than to the vegetable oil conspiracy.
posted by soyjoy at 8:04 AM on April 2, 2003

This, of course, is unadulterated claptrap. Putting raw milk out in the sun for a few hours will quickly prove that it, too, contains the “bacteria of spoilage.”

It's interesting you should mention this. I too was surprised by the claim that raw milk does not spoil like processed milk. As you might guess, I drink raw milk. So one time I left raw milk out -- for 2 weeks. Guess what? It never smelt bad the entire time. It had a sweet smell to a sour smell to a cheese smell and finally turned into a rock hard yellow blob. At no point did it smell rancid or sickly. So, obviously this author has not tested his claims and I urge anyone to try it yourself and see.

As for bad milk.. there are more cases of people getting sick from pasteurized milk than raw milk. Pasteurized milk is sugar and fat and nothing else - perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Lots and lots if you research it. Most of the raw milk sicknesses is due to mishandling caused by underground economies due to laws setup to prevent its distribution. Mostly from poor people who buy it as "animal feed" to make bathtub-cheese kind of like moonshine the government wants to control that stuff since it can kill you, but there are ways of doing so without making it illegal, just like liquor you just test it before distribution. Its also a huge tax loss when people have underground cheese economies, CA looses 10s of millions a year to it. Raw milk is cracked down on harder than drugs in some places by the FDA. But that doesn't mean its dangerous to consumers when handled properly.

As for heart health.. yeah lots of people need to worry about that. Lots of people don't. Its not a basis for general nutritional health. I'm 36, have cholesterol over 300 (good and bad) and according to cat scans I have %0 plaque in my arteries the doctors say whatever kills me it wont be cholesterol. Cholesterol is normal its the funky things we do to our food that causes some as yet not understood process to cause artery buildup.

Finally you can live without saturated fats, but its not easy. Saturated fats allow the absorption of fat-soluable minerals much more readily.

One old guy like 110 he was recently asked what was his secret to long life. He said "Chew your food". He said it broke it down and made it more easily absorbed. I believe digestion of nutrients is the key to health and it's essential we give ourselves as much as possible. Can you do it vegetarian? Of course but it is not easy I know many people who have tried and can't keep it up.
posted by stbalbach at 1:29 PM on April 2, 2003

stbalbach, if you have firsthand evidence that raw milk doesn't spoil I won't argue that point. I offered that link as one example of someone having some sincere problems with the Price/Pottenger folks. Since I don't drink milk I have never tried the experiment myself.

I think we're getting into finer and finer hairs to split here. As I keep saying, I endorse the concept of avoiding processed foods and eating closer to "natural," and don't attempt to make a claim for veganism as "natural." Yeah, it's a little harder, but it's worth it in various ways. And for the record, saturated fats can are not only available in animal products (tropical oils, for example), it's just that that's where almost all of the saturated fat in American diets comes from.
posted by soyjoy at 2:36 PM on April 2, 2003

stbalbach, that's really interesting about the raw milk. Why was pasteurizing introduced to begin with, if it didn't extend the life of the milk and only made the spoilage more unpleasant? Do they only use raw milk to make cheese or can it be made from pasteurized milk too? I don't like milk, except in my coffee, but it's interesting... What about the pasteurization of juices, etc? Soyjoy's link also says that there are more and more virulent strains of these bacteria, so pasteurization is more important than ever. Wouldn't keeping everything raw open up the same kind of problems as not innoculating your kids? (Ie, might be okay for a few people, but if it becomes the norm, we're in trouble)

I don't know whether the corn lobby or the beef lobby is more powerful, but you said yourself that sugar is up there with meat & dairy, and corn syrup is the most used sugar ingredient out there - it's really in everything. I have no doubt corn farmers have some clout. I also have no doubt that beef has a powerful lobby, and I wouldn't hazard a guess about who's got more.

Like I said, I don't think corn has all that solid a rep as it is. You don't hear health freaks talking about switching to corn oil or corn syrup. Those are cheap alternatives. For health, people go for olive oil or linseed oil or maybe sunflower, or for specialty dishes, sesame or peanut or something... Dunno that all plant based oils can be thrown into the same group.

So what do saturated fats supposedly do, and where do vegetarians get them? Tropical oils as in coconut oil?
posted by mdn at 8:47 PM on April 2, 2003

I have no doubt corn farmers have some clout.

Corn farmers as individuals probably don't (at least not as much as the Beef and Dairy Councils) but you can be damned sure that there's plenty of power vested in the agribusiness powerhouses like Archer Daniels Midland who are heavily involved in the corn-growing business in the U.S.
posted by Dreama at 12:15 AM on April 3, 2003

mdn, like I said, there's no shortage of food lobbyists trying to bend our government's policies to their wishes. Corn is a player, but like Dreama, I don't think it could be anywhere near meat, dairy and sugar. (That's sugar itself, not "sweeteners," so in this case there's no overlap with corn.)

But there's no need to hazard a guess as to who has the most clout. The links I provided here refer to stories detailing the revolving-door system at work between the cattle industry and the USDA (similar to the revolving door between military-contractor executives and the Defense Department) This is not exactly a big secret. Even mainstream newspapers are wondering "whose side the Agriculture Department is on" - consumers or the cattle industry - in the wake of the blatant anti-consumer favoritism consistently occurring. Have inspectors of cornfields been told that they could be held financially accountable for lost production if they stopped the process to check something that turned out not to be a lethal problem? So again, yes, there are lots of powerful food lobbies (ADM is indeed a big one - I'm no friend of GE corn OR soy!) but the influence of the cattle industry truly boggles the mind.

You'll have to ask stbalbach for the data on saturated fats' benefits. All I was pointing out is that if we need them, we can get them from plant sources, e.g. yes coconut, palm etc. oils.
posted by soyjoy at 7:45 AM on April 3, 2003

Coconut oil is one of the most healthy oils we can eat. It contains an acid (forget name) that is a potent antiviral and bacterial. People in the tropics eat tons of it, and they don't die of heart attacks. In fact are very healthy. Yet another nail in the saturated-fats-cause-heart-attacks debate. But, coconut oil was driven out of this country almost to extinction by the large Archer-Daniels types because we can't produce coconut oil in the USA we don't have the climate so it's been replaced with corn and soy oils which are arguably very dangerous to ones health (hydrogenized).

mdn, the reports about all the bacteria in raw milk are simply not true. It's a myth. There are 5 bacteria that can exist in the milk that can cause serious sickness. These can and should be tested for by the producer at the point of mfg -- it's standard procedure and it's allready done for the pasteurized milk. The reason for pasteurization? The milk has a longer shelf life and thus can be shiped longer distances and creates general economies of scale cost saveings. Milk is cheaper for the consumer and they make more money.

Agro business is probably second only to the military industrual complex in projecting American world dominance. We are not called the worlds bread basket for nothing. The meat and dairy industry is not even on the same playing field when it comes to wheat, corn and soys power and influence on global events. That is why I am saying, if anyones the boggie man, its NOT going to be the crop growing cartell because that would contradict one of the tenants of Americas power in the world.
posted by stbalbach at 10:27 PM on April 3, 2003

It's "politically correct" to bash the beef and dairy industry. You will find the mainstream doing and often for good reason because of processed milk and the horrors of factory beef. There is a long tradition of this in America going back to even before the 1930s with the meat packing industry. The truth is, animal food can be very dangerous if mishandled. Heck, even the ancient Jewish laws forbid certain animal products as being "unclean".

It's more rare to hear bashing of processed foods and carbs, like those you find in the center isle-ways of the supermarket. Because to do so is not politically correct we are taught that carbs are good and safe.

To see an example of this, Atkins was recently called to testify in front of Congress to prove that his claims that high-protien, low-carb diets are healthy.

Here is an interesting article in which the following quote:

"..the popularity of Atkins' eating advice.. is fraying the nerves of some food companies who rely on the consumer appetite for carbohydrate-laden foods such as pastas and pizzas, cakes, cookies and cereals, to add heft to their own bottom lines.

"Our industry has to do something, and soon. It is starting to become a mainstream belief that carbohydrates are bad," said Judi Adams, director of the Wheat Foods Council, a consortium of industry players that includes ConAgra, General Mills and Kellogg Co.

"This Atkins diet -- or, I call it Fatkins diet -- is going out unchallenged. People are starting to believe it," Adams said.

The strategy is a direct attack on Atkins: Americans who follow the Atkins diet increase their risk of health problems that include cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, kidney damage and some cancers, the Wheat Foods Council says.

Adding insult to injury, it claims that Atkins followers can also suffer headaches, constipation and bad breath.

The council says obesity is not specifically tied to carbohydrates but is the simple result of lazy overeaters.

This is a good example of big business, ConAgra, attacking a nutritionist because it's cutting into the bottom line. You can rest assured ConAgra will generate many many scientific studies that show Atkins is wrong and that eating products that ConAgra makes is the most healthy way of living.
posted by stbalbach at 6:13 AM on April 4, 2003

stbalbach, I thought we could wrap this up and go home - I feel like we're continuing to party after our hosts have gone to bed - but it would be wrong to end this thread as it began, with blatant misinformation.

As to lethal bacteria in milk being "a myth," you as usual provide no links, no documentation but a reference to the ongoing conspiracy. The CDC says raw milk can make you very sick, but yeah, what do they know?

Pasteurization was created explicitly to combat the effects of fecal bacteria in milk. Children died from tuberculosis from milk before this practice was instituted. Children and adults still get sick and die from raw milk because of (even more) virulent bacteria. It is possible to get "clean" milk, and perhaps you lucked out in your unconfirmable home experiment, I don't know. But one can't count on megalithic dairy producers to do so, and one certainly can't base a large population's consumption habits on such an esoteric product.

I won't quibble over coconut oil - it just proves my point that whatever magical properties animal fats have that make them "necessary" are also present in plant foods. But you're probably aware that the health benefit of coconut oil is ascribed more to its medium-chain fatty acids, which distinguishes it from animal fats.

Now, this statement is true... The meat and dairy industry is not even on the same playing field when it comes to wheat, corn and soys power and influence on global events. ...but only because meat and dairy have SO MUCH MORE power and influence. I've provided links that go into detail about how our government is run by cattlemen - for god's sake, "America" was settled (read: cleared of indigenous peoples) by cattlemen! - and how disproportionate an effect this has in policy, in dollars, in the effect on the average consumer. If you are going to counter that, you'll need to provide some evidence to the contrary, rather than re-word the grand conspiracy thesis or point back to the genius of Weston Price.

Dragging in the ol' "politically correct" trope as though that could discount all the mainstream references I cite is just desperate. These articles may or may not be by biased people who have some mysterious pro-vegetable-oil agenda; but they also contain verifiable facts about named individuals, peer-reviewed studies, dollar figures, etc. If your contention is that all these facts are made up, please let me know which of them need to be independently verified.

As for Atkins... If his animal-protein-rich diet is the proof of animal foods' rich nourishing properties, how come his program relies on dozens of different kinds of supplements (many "Atkins"-branded) to provide "the nutritional support your body needs to survive and thrive during controlled carb weight loss"? Gosh, could it be that Dr. Atkins himself may have some motives other than the health of humanity? Anyone in their right mind should be leery of dietary advice saying "don't worry about the impact on your heart" from someone who then is hospitalized for cardiac arrest as our good doctor was. And since you enjoy anecdotal evidence so much, a co-worker of mine who was following the Atkins diet was just hospitalized yesterday, apparently for heart trouble. Intentionally upsetting your metabolism by causing ketosis is playing games with your health, and even if it works as a short-term weight-loss strategy, should not even be mentioned in discussions of long-term human nutrition.

And ConAgra, hoo boy, CON-FRICKIN-AGRA? That's your "example," your poster child for the Big Anti-Meat movement??? I think you may need to cast your research net a little wider than Yahoo News. And again, that (linked) incident is just one out of hundreds, but are you seriously proposing that if corn was killing people, the company that produced it would be able to get away with not telling where the killer corn was? Unbelievable.

To sum up once again, 100% veganism may not be natural or primordial, or even attractive to some people. But anyone who argues "we gotta kill animals to be healthy" or "animal foods are unfairly discriminated against" is barking up the wrong dog.
posted by soyjoy at 9:10 AM on April 4, 2003

mdn, like I said, there's no shortage of food lobbyists trying to bend our government's policies to their wishes. Corn is a player, but like Dreama, I don't think it could be anywhere near meat, dairy and sugar. (That's sugar itself, not "sweeteners," so in this case there's no overlap with corn.)

do you really think cane sugar has a more powerful lobby than corn syrup, though? Corn syrup is more prevalent in cheap mass produced food and is almost certainly a greater health risk... It must be one of the most ubiquitous ingredients out there.

Combine that with corn oil, and with cattle feed, and I don't see how corn farmers wouldn't be on the same level as the beef & dairy industries.
posted by mdn at 4:00 PM on April 7, 2003

mdn, I won't discount your opinion; I can see the logic of corn being in so many things that a certain level of clout would be expected. But in fact cattle by-products are in many more things.

More to the point, there's hard data to support the fact that the cattle industry is in charge. After all, it was they (along with egg producers) who managed to hold up the release of the original USDA Food Pyramid for over a year. I haven't come across any documentation of "Big Corn" or "Big Fruit & Vegetable" being able to pull off something like that (or something like this - getting the USDA to fire inspectors who strictly enforce health regulations).

And as to corn vs. sugar, I don't care that much about the issue, but if you can find a family of Corn Barons with the documented level of influence of the Fanjuls, then we'll do a side-by-side comparison. Absent any data, though, we'll just be swapping opinions.
posted by soyjoy at 9:00 AM on April 8, 2003

i'm sure no one is reading this anymore, but I just wanted to add something about milk: I have accidently let two different containers of pasteurized milk go bad, and they have done so without the "sour milk" smell that I expect - the only way I could tell they went bad was because they began to coagulate and turn into what looks pretty much like cheese - like the raw milk you brought up. The brand of milk was parmalat - I don't know if they do something different, but it seemed to go bad just slightly faster, and with none of the associated nastiness (in fact I continued to use one of them after it went bad because it was just thicker and sort of sweeter).

So. Not really apropos of anything, but it doesn't seem to be pasteurization that does it - maybe the milk, or maybe something about the bacteria in the air, or something else, but it isn't just pasteurization.
posted by mdn at 6:25 PM on April 22, 2003

mdn, you'll doubtlessly think I've been checking back here every day, but actually I hadn't been back since the thread rotated off the front page. But in case you check back, I hope you've been following this story for some indication of the massive power and arrogance of the US sugar industry (as compared to corn). It kind of takes your breath away.

As to milk souring, it probably depends on the individual carton in terms of how much of the harmful bacteria happens to be in it. Even though pasteurized milk is also "homogenized," concentrations of different foreign elements (like Vitamin D) can sometimes swing wildly from one extreme to another, producing different results for different bottles and different batches.

Either way, this whole milk-souring issue was an extremely minor point arising out of my unfortunate choice of one of many pages to link to. Next time I'll be more careful to restrict inline links to sources I already know and trust, you can be sure.
posted by soyjoy at 11:23 AM on April 23, 2003

I hope you've been following this story for some indication of the massive power and arrogance of the US sugar industry (as compared to corn).

That story said that the sugar industry was fighting the WHO's guidelines that only 10% of our diet should consist in sugar, claiming that their research shows that up to 25% of our diet can safely consist of sugar.

I did a search for further information. This piece says that pepsi & coca cola led the battle. But they use high fructose corn syrup as the sweetener for their product! So I don't know that this is the cane sugar industry so much as the junk food industry collectively.

Also found this, apparently a lobby for corn businesses. They're based in Washington, and I sent them an email asking about their organization and the corn industry in general (though they probably won't respond). On their site, they list corn syrup, corn starch, ethanol, and feed, among other things, as their primary products. I dunno, it sounds like a pretty big business to me, but I still can't find any numbers to see how it compares to the beef or dairy industries

Either way, this whole milk-souring issue was an extremely minor point arising out of my unfortunate choice of one of many pages to link to.

that response was really to stbalbach, just to let him know that his raw milk experiment had nothing to do with the milk being raw...
posted by mdn at 4:27 PM on April 23, 2003

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