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  #1  
Old 02-21-2013, 03:11 PM
Interrobang!? Interrobang!? is offline
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Are milk and cheese really full of pus cells?

I heard someone say last night that you shouldn't eat cheese because it's "full of pus." A bit of googling indicates that this is a common vegan/anti-milk talking point. For example:

Quote:
GOT PUS?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows 750 million pus cells in every liter of milk (about two pounds). In Europe, regulators allow 400 million pus cells per liter. France and Italy are known for their magnificent cheeses. Perhaps that's their secret: Less pus!

Since it takes 10 pounds of milk to make one pound of cheese, a pound of cheese can contain up to 7.5 billion pus cells. If your American cheese is sliced so that there are 16 slices to a pound, that single slice of American or Swiss can contain over 468 million pus cells.
That's not the only source for the info, but it's chock full of numbers, so it's gotta be true. Maybe.

So, what's the story? Are we sucking down gallons of cow pus every year and if so, why does it taste so good melted on nachos?
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  #2  
Old 02-21-2013, 03:27 PM
Sigene Sigene is offline
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can you define what a pus cell is?

I wouldn't be surprised that foods contain cells.
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  #3  
Old 02-21-2013, 03:28 PM
Chimera Chimera is offline
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Why is pretty much everything on this posted by anti-dairy people and sites?

That would seem to be the answer in itself.
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  #4  
Old 02-21-2013, 03:29 PM
Machine Elf Machine Elf is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sigene View Post
can you define what a pus cell is?

I wouldn't be surprised that foods contain cells.
Pus contains, among other things, leukocytes. So presumably a "pus cell" is a white blood cell.
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  #5  
Old 02-21-2013, 03:29 PM
Interrobang!? Interrobang!? is offline
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No, I can't really define "pus cell." (I probably should've just left the subject at "pus.") This isn't my sneaky way of trying to persuade people to ditch their cheese, because I love cheese.

The story sounds totally hinky to me, but not in some concrete way, which is why I'm bringing it to the board.
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  #6  
Old 02-21-2013, 03:29 PM
md2000 md2000 is offline
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Google tells me human cells are roughly 1/250mm across; so 1 cubic mm holds 15.6 million cells; 450M cells would be 26 mm^3, about an inch by an inch by a millimetre. (including a boatload of assumptions, that cow cells are about the sam). 26 parts per million of that contaminant.

Actually, if this is the upper limit, probably from really sick cows, then I suspect the typical value is a lot lower.

Considering what is pus - dead white blood cells - I would hope that the white blood cells in milk would be dead after the mandatory pasteurization. The question is whether they died from the treatment process or from close encounters of the bacterial kind during the milk generation process?

Last edited by md2000; 02-21-2013 at 03:30 PM..
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  #7  
Old 02-21-2013, 03:32 PM
Asympotically fat Asympotically fat is offline
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Milk contains white blood cells, there's nothing harmful about that. From what I understadn though that if the milk becomes contaminated by bacteria close to source the number of white blood cells will increase, so the number of white blood cells in milk is a fairly reliable indicator to bacterial contamination, not that the white blood cells themselves are harmful (possibly the opposite, but IDK).
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  #8  
Old 02-21-2013, 03:33 PM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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Of course, the first problem is that there isn't anything that's properly called a "pus cell." The term is used to refer to disease-fighting leukocytes (white blood cells). Pus contains both fluid and dead leukocytes.

The FDA has a standard for how many somatic cells, mainly leukocytes, may be contained in milk, since there is a correlation between this count and the level of infection in a cow. Somatic Cell Count. But calling this an "allowance for pus cells" is just propaganda. Calling anything that contains dead leukocytes "full of pus" means that most animal products would qualify. Of course, a slice of cheese or a spoonful of yogurt contains far more bacterial cells than leukocytes, so you could also say they are full of bacteria.
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  #9  
Old 02-21-2013, 03:36 PM
Blaster Master Blaster Master is offline
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Looks to me like an exaggeration of the facts: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Somatic_cell_count

First off, what exactly is a "pus cell'? That alone should let you know that there's something bogus about it.

Anyway, the numbers they're on aboutare about on if you're counting all Somatic Cells, but they're not exactly the same as "pus cells". Basically, most of that is white blood cells and they count them to determine if there's any pathogens in the milk. The idea of not allowing too many is just that, if there are, then it means the cow may have a disease.

Second, it's coming from an animal, there's going to be gross sounding stuff in it, especially if it's being presented with bias. I'm sure some milk has some amount of pus and blood and other stuff in it. But the only things I can find on any of that sort of stuff is assertions without any cites and I'd guess it just gets passed on because of confirmation bias.
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  #10  
Old 02-21-2013, 03:37 PM
naita naita is offline
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And the maximum allowable somatic cell count level is 750 000 cells per mL, so at least they didn't pull the number from their posteriors:

http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/Fo.../UCM209789.pdf
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  #11  
Old 02-21-2013, 03:42 PM
USCDiver USCDiver is offline
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Actually a percentage of 'pus' is the bacteria that caused the infection, so since most cheeses have bacterial cultures (although not the same ones that cause pyogenic abcesses) maybe that's where there getting this information.

The only other thing I could think of would be mastitis in the cow giving the milk, but in the US all milk is pasteurized before being made into cheese, so it is unlikely there are any live organisms.
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  #12  
Old 02-21-2013, 03:44 PM
DCnDC DCnDC is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by md2000 View Post
Actually, if this is the upper limit, probably from really sick cows, then I suspect the typical value is a lot lower.
Right. "750 million cells" is the point at which the FDA will reject something. This does not equal "all milk contains 750 million pus cells per liter".

And if that squicks you out, you'd best just stop eating, period, right now, because there's a whole lot of stuff a whole lot more revolting than pus cells, whatever that is, that the FDA considers "no health hazard for humans".

You can read all about it in the FDA's Defect Levels Handbook. It's great meal-time reading.

Last edited by DCnDC; 02-21-2013 at 03:46 PM..
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  #13  
Old 02-21-2013, 03:53 PM
Annie-Xmas Annie-Xmas is offline
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Well, here's the take on the subjet from the "not milkman"
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  #14  
Old 02-21-2013, 03:58 PM
Machine Elf Machine Elf is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DCnDC View Post
You can read all about it in the FDA's Defect Levels Handbook. It's great meal-time reading.
Here's a short quiz about the standards that will help people think about the kinds of non-food items that are present in their food.

Note that this is a pretty old quiz, so the standards may have changed since then (but I bet they haven't been lowered to zero).
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  #15  
Old 02-21-2013, 04:41 PM
Derleth Derleth is offline
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But organic food is 100% free of anything you might find disgusting, right? Right?
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  #16  
Old 02-21-2013, 04:59 PM
Michael63129 Michael63129 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Annie-Xmas View Post
Well, here's the take on the subjet from the "not milkman"

Quote:
Author Jim Dickrell reports that the level of pus cells has been rising ever since farmers began using Monsanto's genetically engineered bovine growth hormone.
Good thing the milk I get says "From cows not treated with growth hormones" (but with a footnote that there is no difference according to the FDA).

Also,as far as those hormones go, untreated milk has hormones in it too, notably insulin-like growth factor, which is indeed harmful, causing cancer among other things (when injected), but it isn't absorbed by the body when ingested (note also that bovine IGF-1 is identical to human IGF-1, so you aren't ingesting anything foreign either way):

Quote:
Other studies have shown that while IGF-1 is not destroyed by the pasteurization process, any "extra" IGF-1 that may occur in a given batch of milk from treated or untreated cows has no effect on the organism which ingested it, because IGF-1 is denatured in the stomach.
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  #17  
Old 02-21-2013, 05:05 PM
Michael63129 Michael63129 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Derleth View Post
But organic food is 100% free of anything you might find disgusting, right? Right?
But a few insect parts are better than pesticides and other toxic chemicals. Well, OK, a lot more than a "few" insect parts, from DCnDC's link (this one stands out because of the number, but many others are up to the several hundred range, if for generally larger portions):

Quote:
HOPS Insects (AOAC 967.23) Average of more than 2,500 aphids per 10 grams
No mention of organic either. I also imagine this is a big dilemma for a vegetarian or especially vegan, presumably why so many say that insects aren't animals.
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  #18  
Old 02-21-2013, 05:06 PM
Rachellelogram Rachellelogram is offline
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oops, GQ. Respectfully withdrawn!

Last edited by Rachellelogram; 02-21-2013 at 05:06 PM..
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  #19  
Old 02-21-2013, 05:53 PM
the_diego the_diego is offline
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The bacterium is staphilococcus, right?
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  #20  
Old 02-21-2013, 06:20 PM
ladyfoxfyre ladyfoxfyre is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael63129 View Post

No mention of organic either. I also imagine this is a big dilemma for a vegetarian or especially vegan, presumably why so many say that insects aren't animals.
I'm curious about this statement. Is the point to show that vegan/vegetarian people are hypocrites, and since they can't avoid eating *all* animals, any attempt to eat fewer is stupid?

I swear, for as much as the stereotype is that vegans/vegetarians are "'militant" and push their beliefs on everyone, I encounter way more asshole meat eaters who salivate at the thought of pointing out inconsistencies in their diet choices.
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  #21  
Old 02-22-2013, 11:55 AM
Michael63129 Michael63129 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ladyfoxfyre View Post
I'm curious about this statement. Is the point to show that vegan/vegetarian people are hypocrites, and since they can't avoid eating *all* animals, any attempt to eat fewer is stupid?

I swear, for as much as the stereotype is that vegans/vegetarians are "'militant" and push their beliefs on everyone, I encounter way more asshole meat eaters who salivate at the thought of pointing out inconsistencies in their diet choices.
Really? How many web sites are there out there that are all about how ethical and healthy vegan is? I sure see a lot more vegan sites pushing their agenda than vice-versa. This thread (and the site the OP links to, of which the claims of "pus cells" are just a tiny part) is a good example of what they might push to make people become vegan; I was merely pointing out that vegan food has a lot of yucky stuff in it as well.
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  #22  
Old 02-22-2013, 12:21 PM
Hari Seldon Hari Seldon is offline
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You want to hear something outrageous: Milk is just modified sweat. Well, milk glands are just evolved sweat glands. And in some very primitive mammals (echidna, for one), the young just lick the sweat off the mother's body.
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  #23  
Old 02-22-2013, 12:22 PM
VOW VOW is offline
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I've heard the "pus cells" argument to push the agenda for organic and/or raw milk. Obviously, these arguments work on NON-thinking people, because organic usually translates into "contains dirt" and raw milk is no doubt teeming with wee beasties.

Non-pasteurized milk, and especially human breast milk fed to babies as nature intended, is filled with living cells. That's the beauty and the benefit of milk.

Nothing to see here, folks. Keep moving, move along, don't obstruct traffic...


~VOW
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  #24  
Old 02-24-2013, 06:34 PM
ladyfoxfyre ladyfoxfyre is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael63129 View Post
Really? How many web sites are there out there that are all about how ethical and healthy vegan is? I sure see a lot more vegan sites pushing their agenda than vice-versa. This thread (and the site the OP links to, of which the claims of "pus cells" are just a tiny part) is a good example of what they might push to make people become vegan; I was merely pointing out that vegan food has a lot of yucky stuff in it as well.
So your contention is that because there are a lot of vegan websites pushing the idea that the diet is healthy, that's the same as jumping at the chance to point out that vegans are hypocrites? My experience with people in real life, vegans and non, is that when a meat eater finds out a person is a vegan, they take the opportunity to ridicule them and/or criticize their choice as stupid or unnatural, or hypocritical somehow. I've never met a militant vegan, and I know a ton of them.
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  #25  
Old 02-24-2013, 07:34 PM
Chimera Chimera is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ladyfoxfyre View Post
My experience with people in real life, vegans and non, is that when a meat eater finds out a person is a vegan, they take the opportunity to ridicule them and/or criticize their choice as stupid or unnatural, or hypocritical somehow. I've never met a militant vegan, and I know a ton of them.
Then your experience is significantly different from mine. I've met quite a few militant vegans.
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  #26  
Old 02-25-2013, 06:35 PM
KermitTheFrig KermitTheFrig is offline
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Originally Posted by Chimera View Post
Then your experience is significantly different from mine. I've met quite a few militant vegans.
Me too. And a lot of those are also anti-vaxers, believers in homeopathy and are intolerant to wheat and non-believers.
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  #27  
Old 02-25-2013, 07:14 PM
samclem samclem is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VOW View Post
I've heard the "pus cells" argument to push the agenda for organic and/or raw milk. Obviously, these arguments work on NON-thinking people, because organic usually translates into "contains dirt" and raw milk is no doubt teeming with wee beasties.

Non-pasteurized milk, and especially human breast milk fed to babies as nature intended, is filled with living cells. That's the beauty and the benefit of milk.

Nothing to see here, folks. Keep moving, move along, don't obstruct traffic...


~VOW
Quote:
Originally Posted by ladyfoxfyre View Post
So your contention is that because there are a lot of vegan websites pushing the idea that the diet is healthy, that's the same as jumping at the chance to point out that vegans are hypocrites? My experience with people in real life, vegans and non, is that when a meat eater finds out a person is a vegan, they take the opportunity to ridicule them and/or criticize their choice as stupid or unnatural, or hypocritical somehow. I've never met a militant vegan, and I know a ton of them.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chimera View Post
Then your experience is significantly different from mine. I've met quite a few militant vegans.
Quote:
Originally Posted by KermitTheFrig View Post
Me too. And a lot of those are also anti-vaxers, believers in homeopathy and are intolerant to wheat and non-believers.
MODERATOR STEPS IN.

People. We're straying pretty far afield of the OP.

Get back to it. Put down the vegan angle.
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  #28  
Old 02-25-2013, 09:19 PM
Yllaria Yllaria is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by samclem View Post
. . . Put down the vegan angle.
Is that, like, a boomerang shaped carrot?
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  #29  
Old 02-27-2013, 11:10 AM
furryman furryman is offline
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Anything with the name (leukocytes) 'Lucas' in it can't be good for you.

Last edited by furryman; 02-27-2013 at 11:10 AM..
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