Dairy products including milk, cheese, butter and yogurt displayed on white wood nevodka/iStock/Thinkstock

National Dairy Month shines light on benefits of dairy foods

Milk one of most cost-effective means to deliver wide range of nutrition.

As part of the June 1 commemoration of World Milk Day and to kick off National Dairy Month, the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) said the public health case for the consumption of milk and other dairy foods is stronger today than ever – a fact that is increasingly recognized by health experts and consumers in the U.S. and across the globe.

“Today’s celebration – which coincides with the start in the United States of national June Dairy Month – acknowledges the inimitable role that milk and other dairy foods play in our diets,” said Jim Mulhern, president and chief executive officer of NMPF. “The undeniable good news about dairy products starts with its unmatched value as a superfood. No other food source comes close to providing the same nutrition.”

Mulhern noted that each glass of milk represents the number-one source in children’s’ diets of nine essential nutrients: calcium, potassium, phosphorus, protein, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin B12, riboflavin and niacin. Over the years, he said “this consistent nutritional package has earned dairy its unparalleled wholesome reputation – a healthy halo – that consumers recognize and trust. Meeting government nutrient recommendations is extremely difficult without including milk and dairy in your diet.”  

Mulhern said that the federal Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee found that when foods from the milk family were not part of people’s eating habits, intakes of many key nutrients fell below federal recommendations. In fact, he said, “milk is the top food source for calcium, potassium and vitamin D, (which are) three of the four ‘nutrients of public health concern’ — nutrients that many Americans, including children, are most lacking in their diets,” according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

“Since more than 90%of the U.S. population falls short of the recommended three daily servings of milk and milk products, including this fresh, simple and wholesome beverage at mealtimes can play an important role in healthy eating and well-being through adulthood,” Mulhern said.

When measured by the price per serving, milk is also one of the most cost-effective means to deliver a wide range of nutrition. Mulhern pointed to research from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that found that dairy is among the most economical foods across a variety of metrics and that milk was among the lowest-cost sources of protein, vitamin A, calcium, vitamin B-12 and riboflavin. If families try to replace dairy in their diets, “they will likely have to spend more in order to maintain the same nutrient intake,” he said.

Promoting the irreplaceable nutritional value of milk has been part of NMPF’s focus for the past six months as it has urged the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to strictly enforce food labeling regulations intended to distinguish between real and imitation dairy foods. FDA regulations stipulate that anything labeled “milk” must be from an animal, but the agency has not enforced this rule “as plant-based food companies continue to co-opt dairy-specific terminology on their nutritionally inferior products,” Mulhern said. “Ignoring food product standards can mislead consumers into believing ‘fake food’ products offer the same nutrition as cow’s milk, which they definitely do not.”

In January, in support of NMPF’s efforts, a bipartisan group of members of Congress introduced the DAIRY PRIDE Act, which would require FDA to take action to enforce food labeling regulations. NMPF, along with other dairy organizations, continues to build support in the House and Senate for this legislation.

“World Milk Day offers us a great opportunity to remind consumers here at home and around the world of the important benefits of real milk. It may have its imitators, but no other product can duplicate or replace the same unprocessed, natural goodness of the real thing,” Mulhern said.

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