The head of dairy co-op Arla UK, Tomas Pietrangeli, has hit out at news stories which associate milk-based products with health risks.
Writing on his LinkedIn page, he said: “Not a day goes by it seems when there isn’t some new scare story about what we should and, increasingly, shouldn’t be eating. Dairy is no exception and controversy and the endless cycle of claim and counter-claim is prolific.”
“For every research report trumpeting the health benefits of dairy you can find another that says the exact opposite. Sometimes you even see the same data being used to prove different things.”
Mr Pietrangeli said the debate was “fierce” and added: “As the UK head of a dairy co-operative, it should come as no surprise that I feel passionately about dairy.
“I believe strongly that milk is a truly unique, natural and nutritious product that plays an important part in our diets. I’m biased of course, but so are those equally zealous who sit in the opposite camp.”
Taking aim anti-dairy campaigners, he added: “It is a lobby by the way.
“You only need to look at some of the recent advertising campaigns to see that this an orchestrated and well-funded effort to endorse, often aggressively, a certain way of life.”
He said people were free to live and eat however they choose, accepting that “for many an alternative lifestyle is incredibly rewarding”, but attacked “a constant dialogue with no substance, a debate entirely lacking in clarity and rational discussion”.
He warned: “I suspect most people are very confused about dairy and dairy alternatives and could potentially be adopting behaviours that have a significant impact on their health and wellbeing without being fully informed. I see this amongst my own family and friends.”
Mr Pietrangeli went on to praise Arla’s “proud and passionate” farmer owners, and listed the health benefits of dairy products, including nutrients and vitamins in milk, such as calcium, protein, phosphorous, potassium, iodine, vitamin B2 and vitamin B12.
“You can get lots of these from a whole host of other non-animal products, but you tend to have to consume those alternatives in much greater volumes,” he said, adding: “All global health authorities recommend dairy in some form or quantity – nowhere is the reigning medical wisdom to exclude dairy.”
Referring to Arla’s own lacto-free products, he said: “Some (not many) people need to exclude dairy because of proven intolerances and others want to because of preference.
“That’s fine – we produce our own lacto-free range so we are not against choice. You can be healthy living a vegan diet, we just think you can also be healthy living one with dairy in it too.”
But, he added: “What I am against is an overly emotive debate which clouds consumer decision-making and it doesn’t help that, in this country and others, there is a lack of joined up guidance on the precise amount of dairy that should be consumed.
“We need clarity and a mature dialogue from all sides of the debate and from policymakers and the medical community.”