The Government says it won’t honour the previous administration’s plan to convene a group of experts to discuss the safety of A2 milk™, relative to “ordinary” A1 milk.
Food Safety Minister Kate Wilkinson said that a European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) review of the science of different milks was “definitive”.
“There was no need for a risk assessment,” said Wilkinson.
The European review canvassed claims that milk containing A2 beta casein is less likely to cause health problems than the usual milk containing the A1 form of the casein, but concluded that both types of milk were safe to drink.
A1 milk – the form found in ordinary milk in many western countries – is high in the protein beta-casein A1, which contains the peptide or protein fragment beta-casomorphin (BCM-7), which some studies have linked with diabetes, heart disease, autism and milk intolerance.
The EFSA concluded that a formal risk assessment was not needed.
The New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) initially planned to do the A1/A2 review itself before that task was taken on by its much bigger European counterpart. The NZFSA said in 2004 that both A1 and A2 milk were important foods and safe for most, other than consumers allergic to lactose.
The debate first stirred New Zealand’s mainstream dairy industry over a decade ago when diabetes researcher Bob Elliott argued A1 beta casein in milk could be triggering type-1 diabetes in children. He later also said population studies implicated the A1 protein in some countries’ relatively high death rates from heart disease.
A biotechnology company, A2 Corp, subsequently launched a milk without A1 proteins, and claimed ordinary milk containing A1 proteins could harm a consumer’s health, and that this could be avoided by drinking A2 milk™.
The EFSA noted further data was required to calculate risk: “Simply put, an assessment cannot be undertaken if key information concerning exposure of consumers to BCM7 is yet to be determined.”
But EFSA clearly identified that BCM7 from A1 beta casein could act as an opioid with strong potential to have wide ranging effects on the digestive system.
And the European authority acknowledged there were segments of populations susceptible to the potential effects of BCM7, including babies and adults with certain diseases.
A Lincoln University professor, Keith Woodford, argued in his 2007 book Devil in the Milk that dairy farms should switch to A2 herds.
Wilkinson said flying in international experts to discuss a report that reached clear conclusions would have cost about $60,000.
Anyone interested in doing further research in this area of their own accord could put proposals for funding to the Health Research Council of New Zealand, she suggested.