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rBGH and rBST: The Growth Hormones in Your Dairy Products

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Last Updated on July 7, 2024 by Max

Welcome to the Sixth Part of Our Food Safety Series

In this part of our series on food safety double standards, we turn our attention to rBGH and rBST, synthetic growth hormones used in dairy production. These hormones, common in U.S. dairy farms, have sparked a global debate over food safety and animal welfare. Join us as we delve into the implications of these hormones for both human health and dairy cows, contrasting the regulatory approaches of the European Union and the United States.

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?


As we conclude our discussion on rBGH and rBST in dairy products, we are left to ponder the broader implications of such practices. The distinct regulatory paths taken by the EU and the U.S. not only highlight differing food safety philosophies but also raise questions about the transparency and ethical considerations in food production. What are your thoughts on the use of synthetic hormones in dairy farming? How do these practices influence your choices as a consumer? We welcome your insights on this complex and crucial topic.


  • 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.

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