By Robert Cohen Executive Director Text Only



Do boys and girls require animal cholesterol in their diets?

Is that what makes them grow up to become healthy adults?

I called the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA),
and after about 20 calls that brought me full circle from
one bureaucrat's desk to another, I found my way to a very
courageous and wonderful man, Bill Wagner. Mr. Wagner's
title is Child Nutrition Section Chief for Food Labeling.
Bill's phone number is 703-305-2590.

I like Bill. We spent some quality time on the telephone. I
told him that I have three healthy, and that I want them to
eat nutritious food, and that was why I was calling. In
turn, Bill told me that he has twin six-year-old children, a
girl and a boy. We were having a grand old time until I got
to the point of my call.

"Bill," I said. By now we were on a first name basis.

"Why does a carton of milk contain RDA information for
cholesterol. Is USDA telling consumers to eat cholesterol to
insure good health?"

Here's what Bill said to me. I took careful notes.

"Based on a 2000 calorie diet provided on all retail
products, the best way to look at the labeling information
is that it's a guide for what you should consume in a day."

I interrupted.

"In other words, one needs to eat cholesterol?"

His response surprised me.

"Of course. Everybody needs to eat some dietary

"How much?" I asked.

"I don't claim to be an expert," was his response.

"Well, you've got the title. You're in charge, aren't you?"

Bill gave me some other names and numbers to call.

One was Dr. Peter Murano, the Deputy Admninistrator for the
Special Needs Program at USDA.

Murano would not get on the phone with me, but his
secretary, Vicki Majors, was kind enough to call me back
with Dr. Murano's written statement. For the record, Dr.
Murano believes:

"The body does require cholesterol, and it's important to
supplement it, especially growing children. That's why it's
listed on a carton of milk."

I would have asked Dr. Murano why it is that vegetarians who
eat no animal cholesterol live ten years longer than those
who enjoy eating saturated animal fat and cholesterol, but
he did not call me back. However, you can ask the good
doctor by EMAIL:

The buck (not Bambi) stops on somebody's USDA desk, and I
identified that person as George Braley, USDA Acting
Undersecretary for Food and Nutrition. His phone number is

Mr. Braley's secretary is Lori, and she promised to get a
response to me. Her EMAIL address is:

Here is what I wrote to Lori on Friday, March 8, 2002.

"Dear Lori,

Please share this with Mr. Braley.

Cartons of milk contain RDA information. I was surprised to
read that people require dietary cholesterol. I spoke with
Bill Wagner and he confirmed this. I also spoke to Dr. Peter
Murono's office, and his secretary (Vicki Majors) read me a
statement from Dr. Murono stating that:

'The body does require cholesterol, and it's important to
supplement it.'

My question to you is, do you concur?

If so, could you explain why the body requires dietary


Robert Cohen

That's it, folks. I have put in a total of six phone calls
to George Braley. Mr. Braley has no comment. I cannot say
that I blame him. The man may be in charge, but what is he
in charge of? If he admits that we do not need dietary
cholesterol, then the misleading milk label should be
changed. If he admits that dietary cholesterol is required
for human health, then he places his reputation on the line,
opening himself up for criticism and ridicule from his

Before giving up on USDA entirely, I reached their
dietician, a pleasant guy by the name of Tim Vasquez. Tim is
30-years-old, and has no kids, but we did have a nice
conversation about cholesterol. He could not remember
whether dietary cholesterol was required, but he promised to
get back to me, and did.

Late last night, Tim EMAILED this to me:

"The body makes the cholesterol it requires. In addition,
cholesterol is obtained from food."

As an interesting aside, our conversation turned to genetic
engineering, bovine growth hormones, and calcium. I posed a
challenging question to Tim. Tim had agreed that bone
modeling involves many minerals, including magnesium, so I
asked him whether or not there was a magnesium crisis in
America (beacuse the dairy industry represents that there is
a calcium crisis). Tim told me to wait a second, as he had
the answer to that question nearby.

He then asked whether I attended the "Calcium Summit."

"Tim, is that what you're going to reference?"

I recently wrote about the caclium summit and released some
of the dairy industry's internal documents:

I explained to Tim that his supporting documents were
prepared by the dairy industry, and that the Calcium Summit
was one big dairy-sponsored "media blitz." I am not happy
that USDA employees cite dairy industry propaganda when
determining USDA protocols.

In the meantime, should you eat dietary cholesterol? The
carton of milk says you should. Two USDA employees, one a
doctor, also advise that you do so. Two thumbs up from USDA
for dietary cholesterol. According to USDA, by not eating
dietary cholesterol, vegans are compromising their health.

Despite the fact that just about every health practitioner
cautions his or her patients on limiting their consumption
of dietary cholesterol, USDA promotes the consumption of
cholesterol by requiring RDA labeling on cartons of milk.

USDA makes cholesterol a good and necessary factor in the
American diet. What is the current RDA for logic and

Robert Cohen author of:   MILK A-Z
Executive Director (
Dairy Education Board

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