Review Confirms Human Health Safety of Somatotropin for Dairy Cows

US - After reviewing the literature and after 20 years of its widespread use in dairy cows in the US, scientists have concluded that recombinant bovine somatotropin (rbST) has no adverse effects on human health.
calendar icon 3 April 2014
clock icon 2 minute read

Commercial use of rbST has been used in the United States for 20 years, providing a backdrop for reviewing the outcome of use on human health issues by the upcoming 78th meeting of the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)/World Health Organization (WHO) Expert Committee on Food Additives.

These results and further advancements in scientific knowledge indicate there are no new human health issues related to the use of rbST by the dairy industry, report R.J. Collier of the University of Arizona and D.E. Bauman of Cornell University in a paper published in the current issue of Journal of Animal Science.

The researchers say that use of rbST has no effect on the micro- or macro-composition of milk. Also, no evidence exists that rbST use has increased human exposure to antibiotic residues in milk.

Concerns that Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-I) present in milk could have biological effects on humans have been allayed by studies showing that oral consumption of IGF-I by humans has little or no biological activity. Additionally, concentrations of IGF-I in digestive tract fluids of humans far exceed any IGF-I consumed when drinking milk.

Furthermore, chronic supplementation of cows with rbST does not increase concentrations of milk IGF-I outside the range typically observed for effects of farm, parity or stage of lactation.

Use of rbST has not affected expression of retroviruses in cattle or posed an increased risk to human health from retroviruses in cattle, according to Collier and Bauman.

Furthermore, the risk for development of type 1 or type 2 diabetes has not increased in children or adults consuming milk and dairy products from rbST-supplemented cows.

Overall, concluded the researchers, milk and dairy products provide essential nutrients and related benefits in health maintenance and the prevention of chronic diseases.


Collier R.J. and D.E. Bauman. 2014. Update on human health concerns of recombinant bovine somatotropin use in dairy cows. J. Anim. Sci. 92(4):1800-1807. doi: 10.2527/jas.2013-7383

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