Last Updated on May 20, 2023 by Max
rBGH and rBST: The Growth Hormones in Your Dairy Products
Milk and other dairy products are staples in many of our diets. However, how much do we know about how these products are made? One topic of concern is the use of recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) and recombinant Bovine Somatotropin (rBST), synthetic hormones used in the U.S. to increase milk production in dairy cows (U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 2019).
However, the use of these hormones has been linked to potential health risks. Scientists have suggested that milk from cows treated with rBGH may have increased Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1), a hormone associated with various types of cancer, including breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers (Hankinson, S.E. et al., 1998).
Furthermore, rBGH and rBST can cause health problems in the cows themselves, such as an increased risk of udder infections, which could lead to increased use of antibiotics (U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 2019). This practice raises further concerns about antibiotic resistance, a significant public health issue.
Given these potential risks, the European Union has banned rBGH and rBST in dairy production (European Parliament and Council of the European Union, 1999). However, these hormones are still used in the U.S., although some dairy producers have chosen to stop using them due to public pressure (U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 2019).
The story of rBGH and rBST is another chapter in the tale of divergent food safety regulations between the EU and the U.S. It emphasizes the importance of transparency in food production and the consumer’s right to know what is in their food.
As we explore these important topics further, what are your thoughts on using hormones in food production? Are you concerned about the potential health risks associated with these practices?
- Hankinson, S.E., et al. (1998). Circulating concentrations of insulin-like growth factor I and risk of breast cancer. Lancet, 351(9113), 1393-1396.
- European Parliament and Council of the European Union. (1999). Council Directive 1999/87/EC of 25 October 1999 concerning the placing on the market and administration to animals of zootechnical additives. Brussels.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). (2019). Dairy 2014, Dairy Cattle Management Practices in the United States, 2014. Washington, D.C.: USDA.