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Farmers, AMA Slam Dr. Spock’s Criticism of Milk With PM-Milk-Contents, PM-Milk-Consumption

September 30, 1992

WAUSAU, Wis. (AP) _ When Dr. Benjamin Spock - the man who literally wrote the book on child care - came out against milk, America’s dairy farmers were aghast. So was the American Medical Association, which says he’s all wrong.

″I am stunned, really completely taken by surprise, because I always believed milk was the perfect food for a baby, perfect nutrition,″ said Karen King, 44, a dairy farmer from Edgar.

Spock, 89, appeared in Boston on Tuesday with representatives of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nonprofit group of 2,000 doctors that promotes preventive medicine and alternatives to animal research.

The group warned against feeding whole milk to infants, saying it’s low in iron, high in fat and can be contaminated with antibiotics or too much vitamin D. Other foods, such as kale, broccoli or fish, provide more calcium without the fat, the group said.

Spock said children should be breast-fed if possible until they are at least 2. ″After 2 years, forget milk altogether of any kind. That’s the preferable thing,″ said Spock, whose books have guided millions of parents on child care since the 1940s.

M. Roy Schwarz, AMA senior vice president of medical education and science, said his group was alarmed by the advice.

″We certainly would not agree with Dr. Spock’s opinion on that because we do not believe the science supports that view,″ he said. ″We love him for all he’s done for children, but we think he’s wrong here.″

The National Milk Producers Federation called it ″unsound and nutritionally dangerous″ to suggest children stop drinking milk because of what Spock ″feels is good for him.″ Other dairy groups said the same.

″Dr. Spock is somewhere in his late 80s. He has embraced some strange causes in the past. I don’t know whether his name adds any credibility to the actions of this group,″ said Edward Jesse, a dairy economist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

In the 1960s, Spock was an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War. He was convicted of conspiring to counsel men to avoid the draft. The conviction was reversed on appeal.

Perhaps the harshest critics of Spock’s advice were found on farms.

″I saw the story and it just tripped my trigger,″ said Pete Knigge, a central Wisconsin dairy farmer who milks 45 cows. Knigge, a former member of the National Commission on Agriculture Policy, said he worried Spock’s advice would drive down milk prices.

″Anytime that you have someone question the quality and need of a product, it has to have an adverse effect. It is exactly what we don’t need at this time,″ he said.

King said she already was having a bad week - her family will have no corn to sell because of an abnormally cool growing season and early frost. ″We would hope that nobody takes it too seriously, but there is always an element of the population that will take it seriously and change their habits,″ she said.

Wisconsin’s 32,000 dairy farmers this year have endured drought followed by an unusually cool, rainy growing season that delayed development of corn.

Economists have warned that milk prices may have peaked and milk production is up 4 percent - factors that could portend a price dip, Knigge said.

Dan Borschke, president of the Dairy Council of Wisconsin, said the suggestion that parents feed their children such foods as kale, broccoli or fish to provide calcium is unrealistic because many children don’t like them.

″Parents are realistic,″ he said. ″You and I grew up on milk and cookies. So did our grandparents.″

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