On Sundry Items of Diet

Regarding "salt, sugar, and milk," she said: "We know that a free use of these things is positively injurious to health, and in many cases we think that if they were not used at all, a much better state of health would be enjoyed.

But at present our burden is not upon these things. The people are so far behind that we see it is all they can bear tohave us draw the line upon their injurious indulgences and stimulating narcotics."—Ibid.   

The list of injurious articles against which they did continue to bear "positive testimony," in The Health Reformer, and in their health lectures, includes "tobacco, spirituous liquors, snuff, tea, coffee, flesh meats, butter, spices, rich cakes, mince pies, a large amount of salt, and all exciting substances used as articles of food."—Ibid.

Some who have chosen to criticize Seventh-day Adventists feel that they have found an occasion for reproach because of the inclusion of butter in this list. They assert that this is indicative of an extreme position taken by the denominational leaders. Because of such perplexity in the minds of some, a few facts should be considered in this 


Sylvester Graham, who was the leading physiologist and dietitian of that time, testifies that "nearly all who have written or spoken on the subject of human ailment with reference to health have been entirely agreed inconsidering this favorite article as decidedly objectionable, and some have spoken of it in the severest terms of condemnation."— Lectures on the Science of Human Life, p. 506. New York: Fowler and Wells. 

The Use of Butter 

He referred to the experiments and observations of Dr. William Beaumont. Dr. Beaumont's opportunities as physician to Alexis St. Martin, the French Canadian soldier whose stomach was opened by a gunshot wound, were unique. After quoting this doctor regarding the difficulties in digestion of butter and other animalfats, Mr. Graham 


"The point is, therefore, forever established beyond all controversy, that butter is better avoided than eaten bymankind. . . . Diseases of every kind, both acute and chronic, are aggravated by it, though it may produce no distress nor sensible disturbance in the stomach. The delicate and feeble and inactive suffer more from it than the robust. And children and youth are always more injured by it than healthy adults."—Ibid. 


Graham was very positive in his assertion that no butter should be used except that which was perfectly sweet and recently made from the milk of healthy cows. He maintained that even thisshould be used very sparingly if at all, and never in the melted form. 

This recognition of the dangers incident to the free use of butter was agreed to, as Graham intimates, by practically all the hygienists of that time. 

It should be remembered that in those days there was no refrigeration or pasteurization, and that all animal products very quickly became subject to bacterial infection. Under such conditions no one can consistently deny that raw butter was very likely to contain tuberculosis and other harmful germs. Butter was used very freely in frying. Moreover, it was not uncommon for large quantities of butter to be used in gravies and sauces and cakes and desserts, all eaten at the same meal. Such free and excessive use in cooking was justly condemned by the health reformers of those days. 

From a Government Report 

Nor should we overlook the fact that similar cautions against the free use of butter were uttered by authorities many years later. The prevalence of tubercle bacilli in butter was forcefully set forth in a publication issued by the United States Department of Agriculture in 1908. In summing up the conclusions reached, based upon many experiments made at the Bureau of Animal Industry Experiment Station, the following statements are made: 


" (1) The conduct of tubercle bacilli in milk is to move both upward with the cream and downward with the sediment and thus, in both directions, away from the intermediate layer of skim milk. The downward movement is due to their high specific gravity and the upward movement to the tenacity with which they adhere to the comparatively large cream globules. Hence when cream is separated from infected milk, it will contain, volume for volume, more tubercle bacilli than the milk. 

"(2) The frequency with which tubercle bacilli occur in sediment from milk is a fair measure of the frequency with which they occur in cream. What this means for the infection of commercial cream may be judged from the following paragraph quoted verbatim from the last {1907] Annual Report of the Secretary of Agriculture:1

" 'The examination of sediment taken from cream separators of public creameries throughout the country has demonstrated the presence of tubercle bacilli in about one fourth of the samples.' 

"(3) When butter is prepared from infected cream, tubercle bacilli are transferred to it in such numbers that they will be present in greater concentration than in the milk from which the cream was derived; hence, measure for measure, infected butter is a greater tuberculous danger than infected milk. . . . 

"(7) Unimpeachable evidence proves conclusively that tubercle bacilli of the bovine type, from bovine sources, must be classed as highly infectious for man; hence, tubercle bacilli in butter cannot be ignored because they are usually derived from bovine sources."—E. C. Schroeder, M.D.V., and W. E. Cotton, Tubercle Bacilli in Butter; 

Their Occurrence, Vitality, and Significance, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Animal Industry—

Circular 127, pp. 20, 21. Washington, D.C.: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1908. 



 Report of the Secretary of Agriculture, p. 30,Washington, D.C., 1907.


Mrs. White maintained that the time would come when, due to increasing disease among animals, it would be unsafe to continue the use of animal products. (Testimonies for the Church, Vol. VII, pp. 124, 135.) Until her death she personally did not use butter nor did it appear on her table. However, she affirmed that eggs, milk, and butter were not to "be classed with flesh meat." (Testimonies for the Church, Vol. VII, p. 135.) In later years (after pasteurization and refrigeration had made the use of dairy products much safer) she recognized that "butter is less harmful when eaten on cold bread than when used in cooking," but still maintained that "as a rule, it is better to dispense with it altogether," especially "where the purest article cannot be obtained."—Ministry of Healing, p. 302; Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 351. She taught that when properly prepared, olives, like nuts, would "supply the place of butter and flesh meats," and asserted that "the oil, as eaten in the olive, is far preferable to animal oil or fat."— Ministry of Healing, p. 298. 

More Recent Discoveries

More recent discoveries indicate that the excessive use of butter is a contributing factor to the prevalence of arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. This has been shown to be caused by a deposit of cholesterol in the walls of the arteries. "Cholesterol comes only from animal fats and animal tissues."—Review and Herald, July 1,


Therefore, we now have clear evidence that the use of even the best quality of butter, save in moderate quantities, is still a source of danger, and that in the decades when the light on health reform was given to Seventh-day Adventists, butter was generally used so excessively as properly to be classed among objectionable articles of food.

The Story of  OUR HEALTH MESSAGE  198-200