SEATTLE -- A Washington state man who claimed he was a "milkaholic" lost a lawsuit against Safeway, Pleasanton, Calif., and the Washington Dairy Products Commission, Lynnwood, Wash., in a high-profile court case that tried to create a new affliction to add to the usual lineup of addictions.
Norman Mayo, 61, of Bothell, Wash., filed suit in federal district court last year, claiming that milk is "addictive" and alleging that "his particular taste for milk was the cause of a mild stroke he suffered in 1994," according to representatives of the Washington dairy industry.
Both the WDPC and Safeway were implicated "because Mr. Mayo lives in Washington and claims that the milk [he drank] was produced in Washington and says that he does most of his shopping at Safeway," said the WDPC's communications manager Blair Thompson.
Chief Judge Carolyn Dimmick dismissed the suit last month, according to the WDPC's
statement, but declined to impose a nuisance lawsuit fine on Mayo.
Safeway's corporate offices did not return phone calls regarding the case, and Mayo couldn't be reached for comment. The WDPC's Thompson said that the "milkaholic" suit hasn't affected milk sales.
"We are pleased that the justice system has affirmed the facts that milk is not addictive and cannot cause a stroke," Steve Matzen, the WDPC's general manager, said in the statement.
"There isn't any scientific evidence that milk is addictive," Matzen said in an interview with SN. "We believe that dairy products are a necessary part of a healthy diet."
"We always felt that scientific truth was on our side," added Thompson. "But we never took for granted that we would prevail in court.
"Milk is composed of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and water," noted Thompson. "Neither the Food and Drug Administration nor any other authority has ever identified any of these nutrients as addictive."
Thompson even pointed out recent clinical studies that suggest milk can actually lower the risk of having a stroke.
The dairy commission reported on a 22-year-long study of 3,100 men, published in the journal Stroke in 1996, which found that subjects who consumed at least two 8-ounce glasses of milk per day were two times less likely to have a stroke than those who drank no milk.
"Calcium is a major inhibitor of hypertension, which is a major cause of stroke," added Thompson. He surmised that Mayo may have decided to sue because he "suffered a major health reversal and was looking for someone to blame."
While the case did receive substantial press attention in the state, Thompson called most of the media coverage of the lawsuit fair and balanced. "Most people just took it as a real indicator of just how wacky our society is."
Mayo's suit had sought punitive and compensatory damages, the cessation of all dairy product advertising,"warning labels" on dairy products, an advertising campaign to warn consumers about the alleged dangers posed by dairy products and financial compensation to public health care agencies obligated to care for other milkaholics.
"Mayo said that his suit was inspired by the successful attack on the tobacco industry mounted by the federal government and some states," noted the WDPC in a statement.