- The US National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) has issued a challenge to A2 Milk Company for its use of unsubstantiated advertising claims relating to the purported benefits of A2 milk compared to standard milk. Experts have highlighted the potential for these latest allegations to impact consumer demand in China.
On Oct. 23, 2018, NMPF released an article challenging A2 Milk for the use of somewhat spurious advertising claims. It is said, the National Advertising Division (NAD) has submitted the advertising claims made by a2 Milk Company (a2MC) to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for further review.
What does a2MC claim in its advertising?
When we enter a2MC's US official website, we can see the sentence "a2 Milk® is easier on digestion and may help some avoid discomfort" when compared with ordinary milk, implying the superior quality of a2 milk. Similar advertising claims appear also on the Australian website and the Chinese website, but are more indirect "A1 protein in regular cows'milk might cause tummy discomfort in some of us, but an a2 Milk may help."
Source: a2 milk official website
A research report made by a2MC in 2017 implies that the A1 protein in ordinary milk is responsible for adverse gastrointestinal symptoms. NMPF has also undermined the scientific rigor of this research. In 2015 and 2016, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and Lion Dairy & Drinks alleged that the a2MC was engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct based on the Australian Consumer Law and challenged the accuracy of a2's medical and scientific research.
Is a2 milk better than ordinary milk?
First, we need to know what A2 milk is. A2 milk refers to any milk which contains A2 casein proteins only, while ordinary milk contains a mix of both A1 and A2 proteins.
Basically, dairy allergy can be divided into two types, protein allergy and lactose allergy caused by lactose intolerance. Most Chinese people are lactose intolerant and generally speaking the protein has little clinical significance on milk allergy or related GI discomfort. In addition according to a paper published in the Medical Journal of Australia, it is said "milk with predominantly A2 protein is not a substitute for infants with cow milk protein allergies."
Yang Yuexin, a prominent a2 protein researcher in China said in an interview with The Beijing News, "Science and advertisement are two subjects. The company released advertising claims without being reviewed by experts. Maybe claims have been overstated or maybe the data was used too soon." Jiang Zhuoqin, another expert said, "We still need more evidence to support the results about a1 protein."
Relevant news: Illegal advertisement in China
On July 20th, 2018, SAMR released a list of 30 companies who have used illegal advertisements. A2 milk is on the list for breaching provision 38 of China's Advertisement Law "enterprises shall not choose children who are under 10 years old for advertising". It remains to be seen how the Chinese government will respond to the heightened interest related to a2MC's advertising claims.