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Calif. Milk Board Dumps Controversial PMS Campaign

In one piece from the edgy campaign, a henpecked husband cowers with cartons of milk in his arms.MoreCloseclosemore
In one piece from the edgy campaign, a henpecked husband cowers with cartons of milk in his arms.

Even if the science was right, the message proved terribly wrong.

The California Milk Processor Board pulled the plug on a controversial campaign that positioned milk as a remedy for premenstrual syndrome by appealing to cowering husbands and boyfriends.

There's merit to the idea that regular consumption of milk — and other foods rich in calcium and vitamin D — can lessen the odds a woman will develop PMS or reduce the severity of symptoms.

But the campaign, mainly on the website whose URL was, was seen by many as sexist and downright offensive. Now the URL directs people to the site, where the milk board apologizes:

Over the past couple of weeks, regrettably, some people found our campaign about milk and PMS to be outrageous and misguided — and we apologize to those we offended.

A sampling of the reaction against the California Milk Processor Board's campaign for milk as a PMS remedy. (California Milk Processor Board)

How offended? As the Hartford Courant's Susan Campbell wrote last weekend:

I am post-menopausal, but I'm still pissed.

Campbell also talked with University of Massachusetts epidemiologist Elizabeth Bertone-Johnson, whose work was cited in the ads and who helped fact-check them for Shots. One quarrel she had with the campaign was that it overstated the prevalence of PMS.

Update 3:55 p.m. ET: Shots caught up with Steve James, executive director for the California Milk Processor Board, and asked him about the controversy over the campaign and the decision to stop it ahead of its scheduled end in August.

He said the board didn't intend to offend people and that testing of the campaign before it launched got a largely positive response from men and women.

Milk marketers face a big challenge, he said. "Everybody thinks they know everything about milk," he explained. "The pervasive nature of milk works against us."

This campaign, he said, got the message out about PMS and milk in about five days. "It was edgy on purpose, and we knew it would get some attention," he said. "We just miscalculated the ferocity of the reaction among people who were against it."

Copyright NPR 2018.

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