We received this factcheck request on our website:
The message asks if the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is in fact being sued for ignoring a petition asking for cheese manufacturers to add warning labels on all dairy cheese products. The reasons cited were to inform consumers about the increased risk of breast cancer when consuming said products.
When we conducted a search on the lawsuit, we found a news release from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a non-profit organization that aims to create “a new emphasis on plant-based nutrition and scientific research conducted ethically, without using animals”. This was accompanied by a video describing their decision to sue the FDA, where they discuss in detail the studies showing the connection between dairy consumption and cancer.
The release confirms that the PCRM is in fact suing the FDA for ignoring a petition submitted by them in October 2019 requiring manufacturers to include the following notice on the product packaging and labeling of all dairy cheese products: “Dairy cheese contains reproductive hormones that may increase breast cancer mortality risk”.
According to the petition, Dairy products contain traces of estrogens from cows, and as milk is converted to cheese, the estrogens are more concentrated. While they are only traces, they appear to be biologically active in humans, increasing breast cancer mortality.
Studies by the National Cancer Institute and the American Society for Nutrition found that intake of high-fat dairy, but not low-fat dairy, was related to a higher risk of mortality after breast cancer diagnosis, however there was no overall association between dairy intake and breast cancer-specific recurrence or survival.
A report commissioned by the European Journal of Cancer Prevention concluded that greater consumption of high-fat dairy intake was positively related whereas consumption of low-fat dairy intake was inversely related to breast cancer risk. Additionally, research from the World Cancer Research Fund suggests that dairy intake in general is associated with a lower risk of breast cancer. As such, it cannot be said with absolute certainty that dairy intake increases breast cancer mortality risk.
Nevertheless, the claim that the FDA is being sued for ignoring a petition calling for breast cancer warning labels on cheese is true, having been confirmed by the filers of the lawsuit in question, the PCRM.