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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Intolerant for lactose

We just posted a new section to our website on lactose intolerance.

One of the reasons we chose to highlight this issue on our website is because lactose intolerance affects communities of color at a higher rate than others and these are the same communities that are impacted the most by a lack of access to healthy foods – which include alternatives to animal products.

When you consider that 95 percent of Asians, 60 to 80 percent of African Americans, 80 to 100 percent of American Indians and 50 to 80 percent of Latinos are lactose intolerant, this is a huge issue.

In our report Shining a Light on the Valley of Heart’s Delight we found that only 3 percent of locations in lower-income areas (which are predominantly communities of color) had dairy alternatives in comparison to 23 percent in the higher income areas.

And when surveyed on how many stores had any information about lactose intolerance and/or information about alternatives to dairy, NONE of the stores in the lower-income communities had this in comparison to 6.1 percent of the stores in the higher-income communities.

I am not going to throw out any conspiracy theories here (even though I might be tempted), but the real issue is that this is truly wrong, and this situation is responsible for making people sick.

What makes me sad is thinking about how many children and adults probably have no idea they are lactose intolerant and possibly deal with discomfort on a daily basis.

I have no idea if I am lactose intolerant because I am vegan so it is not something I have to worry about, but I have no doubt that this is a real issue for many people given the advertisements for those who are intolerant (oh, the irony of taking a pill so you can consume dairy products versus eating dairy alternatives!).

Not only is this a matter of health, it is a matter of choice. Choice should not be defined by income level, just like healthy food should be a right and not a privilege.

As an organization that seeks to eliminate some of the suffering in this world by encouraging the most just food choices, the Food Empowerment Project advocates people giving up milk (and all animal products) due to the cruelty inherent in the dairy industry.

But the negative environmental impacts that dairy products have is enough to make one give up milk. Considering that one dairy cow produces 25 pounds of wet manure per day, it is no wonder that the dairy industry is wreaking havoc on our waterways.

Avoiding dairy foods is not only an important step for one’s health, but it’s good for the animals as well as the planet.

Not having the option to choose dairy alternatives denies consumers both the opportunity to eat healthier and the opportunity to make choices that are better for the animals and the planet.

A huge thanks to our wonderful volunteer Lex Berko (who is now in London for grad school) for writing this segment and to Valerie Belt for her editing.

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