Milk Company Funds Questionable Study of Asian Babies

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Food politics in action: a nutrition study could be just another attempt to get low-dairy countries to embrace cows

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I was surprised to read a report in FoodNavigator.com that a private company is about to conduct an enormous--and undoubtedly very expensive--study of the nutritional status of children in Southeast Asia.

The study will collect data from more than 16,000 children aged 12 and under in four countries:

  • Dietary profiles and nutrient intake assessment, including food intake, bone density, and cognition.
  • Iron status, vitamins, lipid profile, and blood pressure.
  • Body composition and physical activity, including measurements on weight, height, and hand grip strength.

The company is doing this in partnership with institutions in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Why would a private company embark on a project like this? The company is FrieslandCampina, a Dutch firm specializing in dairy products:

We provide people around the world with all the good things milk has to offer, with products that play an important role in people's nutrition and well-being.

Our product range: baby and infant food, milk-based drinks, cheese, milk, yoghurts, desserts, butter, cream, milk powder, dairy-based ingredients and fruit-based drinks.

As the company explains, "We aspire to help people move forward in life with our dairy nutrition, and are committed to helping our consumers maintain and improve their nutritional well-being with the goodness of milk."

I'm willing to predict that these studies will show that kids in Southeast Asia would be a lot healthier if they drank more milk. And will find reasons to dismiss concerns that lactose intolerance is the norm in Asian populations over the age of five or so.


This post also appears on Food Politics.
Image: John & Rochelle/flickr

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Marion Nestle is a professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. She is the author of Food Politics, Safe Food, What to Eat, and Pet Food Politics. More

Nestle also holds appointments as Professor of Sociology at NYU and Visiting Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell. She is the author of three prize-winning books: Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health (revised edition, 2007), Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety (2003), and What to Eat (2006). Her most recent book is Feed Your Pet Right: The Authoritative Guide to Feeding Your Dog and Cat. She writes the Food Matters column for The San Francisco Chronicle and blogs almost daily at Food Politics.

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