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WASHINGTON -- Milk doesn't always do a body good, or at least that's the argument being made by 10 Washington-area residents who filed a class-action lawsuit yesterday in the District of Columbia's Superior Court.
The suit demands that the dairy industry put warning labels on milk cartons for lactose-intolerant consumers. Instead of going after the government, the plaintiffs are targeting dairy producers and the supermarket chains Safeway and Giant Food.
The plaintiffs, including a seven-year-old boy and a Maryland doctor, are being represented by a lawyer with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a Washington public health group. They said in a statement that they are suing on behalf of all D.C. residents, because "many area residents are not aware they are lactose intolerant and unwittingly buy milk, only to suffer side effects after drinking it." They also charge the dairy industry with "deceiving the public into thinking that milk is essential."
The group claims that 75 percent of the world's population -- including 60 to 80 percent of African Americans, 50 to 80 percent of Latinos, and at least 90 percent of Asian Americans and Native Americans -- is lactose intolerant.
Defendants in the suit include Giant of Maryland; Safeway; Horizon Organic; Dean Foods; Nestle Holdings; Farmland Dairies; Shenandoah's Pride; Stonyfield Farm; and Cloverland Farms Dairy. In response to the lawsuit, the International Dairy Foods Association released a statement maintaining that people who are sensitive to lactose can still enjoy dairy foods.
"Because of dairy's unique package of nutrients and important health benefits, the government's 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that people who are sensitive to lactose choose alternatives from within the milk group first, such as lactose-free milk, aged cheeses, or yogurt with active cultures. Research shows that most people who have difficulties digesting lactose can enjoy up to two cups of milk a day, particularly if they drink it with meals," the IDFA said.
"Unfortunately, the legal action announced today by PCRM is yet another attempt by this animal-rights group to grab headlines at the expense of sound health and nutrition information," the IFDA continued. "The bottom line is that when it comes to nutrition, people should listen to health and nutrition professionals, not an animal rights group."