Schools may ban chocolate milk over added sugar

May 09, 2011 By CHRISTINA HOAG , Associated Press
In this photo taken Tuesday, May 3, 2011, cafeteria manager Carol Avalos sorts individual milk cartons at the Belmont Senior High cafeteria in Los Angeles. With schools under increasing pressure to combat child obesity by offering healthier food, the national staple of kids’ cafeteria trays has come under attack over the very ingredient that helps make it so popular, sugar. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

(AP) -- Chocolate milk has long been seen as the spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down, but the nation's childhood obesity epidemic has a growing number of people wondering whether that's wise.

With schools under increasing pressure to offer healthier food, the staple on children's cafeteria trays has come under attack over the very ingredient that made it so popular - sugar.

Some school districts have gone as far as prohibiting flavored milk, and Florida considered a statewide ban in schools. Other districts have sought a middle ground by replacing flavored milks containing with versions containing sugar, which some see as a more natural sweetener.

Los Angeles Unified, the nation's second-largest school district, is the latest district to tackle the issue. Superintendent John Deasy recently announced he would push this summer to remove chocolate and strawberry milk from school menus.

But nutritionists - and parents - are split over whether bans make sense, especially when about 70 percent of milk consumed in schools is flavored, mostly chocolate, according to the industry-backed Milk Processors Education Program.

Many, including the School Nutrition Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Dietetic Association, American Heart Association, and National Medical Association, argue that the nutritional value of flavored low-fat or skim milk outweighs the harm of added sugar. Milk contains nine including calcium, vitamin D and protein.

A joint statement from those groups points to studies that show kids who drink fat-free, flavored milk meet more of their nutrient needs and are not heavier than non-milk drinkers.

"Chocolate milk has been unfairly pegged as one of the causes of obesity," said Julie Buric, vice president of marketing for the Milk Processors Education Program.

Others note the nation's child obesity epidemic and say flavored milk simply needs to go.

Eight ounces of white milk served in Los Angeles public schools contains 14 grams of natural sugar or lactose; fat-free chocolate milk has an extra six grams of sugar for a total of 20 grams, while fat-free strawberry milk has a total of 27 grams - the same as eight ounces of Coca-Cola.

"Chocolate milk is soda in drag," said Ann Cooper, director of nutrition services for the Boulder Valley School District in Louisville, Colo., which has banned flavored milk. "It works as a treat in homes, but it doesn't belong in schools."

Flavored milk is also a target of British TV chef Jamie Oliver, who has made revamping school food a signature cause.

For a segment to be aired on his "Food Revolution" TV show, he recently filled a school bus with white sand to represent the amount of sugar Los Angeles Unified school children consume weekly in flavored milk.

"If you have flavored milk, that's candy," he told The Associated Press.

Oliver cheered Deasy's proposal to remove flavored milk from schools during a recent joint appearance on the "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" show.

If the school board adopts the ban, Los Angeles Unified would join districts including Washington and Berkeley, Calif.

But efforts by some other districts turned sour after children drank less milk. Milk consumption drops by 35 percent when flavored milks are removed, according to the Milk Processors Education Program.

Cabell County, W.Va., schools brought chocolate milk back at the recommendation of state officials, and Fairfax County, Va., did the same after its dairy provider came up with a version sweetened with beet sugar rather than high-fructose corn syrup.

The Florida Board of Education also backed away from its proposed ban on chocolate milk after the state agricultural commissioner urged the board to look at all sugary food and beverages served in schools.

The Los Angeles district has worked with its dairy supplier on flavored versions using the sweetener Truvia and chicory, district spokesman Robert Alaniz said.

Cooper and others argued children will drink plain milk if that's what's offered.

"We've taught them to drink chocolate milk, so we can unteach them that," Cooper said. "Our kids line up for milk."

Boulder Valley hasn't been barraged with complaints since removing chocolate milk two years ago, but it hasn't tracked whether milk consumption has dropped, she said.

Parents line up on both sides of the issue.

Deborah Bellholt, a South Los Angeles mother, said none of her six children ranging from pre-school to high school age will drink plain milk. "By allowing kids flavored milk, they still get the calcium they need," she said. "If not, they'd bypass it."

But Mimi Bonetti, a suburban Los Angeles mother with two elementary school-age children who drink plain milk, said she gets angry that chocolate milk is portrayed as nutritious. Children can get calcium and other nutrients from other foods, she said.

"If you offer them the choice of chocolate or plain, of course they're going to choose chocolate," Bonetti said. "When you're telling kids that drinking chocolate milk is a healthy choice, it's sending the wrong message."

Ask kids, and most vote for chocolate. Suburban Los Angeles seventh-grader Nacole Johnson said plain milk tastes yucky. If there were no , "I wouldn't drink it," she said.

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dogbert
not rated yet May 09, 2011
The first problem is nanny government deciding what our children can and can not consume. We should stop that first.

The second problem is making milk taste bad and then adding flavorings to make it palatable again. If we stopped removing all the cream so that it tastes like milk should taste, children would probably be willing to drink it again.
kevinrtrs
4 / 5 (1) May 09, 2011
The calcium obtained from milk is somewhat overrated. Sure, you're actually getting some, BUT it's without the essential magnesium to help absorb it, meaning that the calcium tends to lounge around in the wrong places - namely the arteries where it gets heaped up with the cholesterol.
It's that same magnesium that also prevents the sodium in the rest of the food chain from causing high blood pressure.
Another detriment of CHOCOLATE milk is that it contains caffeine - which is a double whammy for kids - affecting their nervous systems adversely and also destroying their vitamin C - required for repairing any damage done to the arteries - and proper immune function.
Maybe the kids should be given long sticks of sugar cane to sweeten their milk with. They'll love those canes.
Idiotboy
not rated yet May 09, 2011
@dogbert "The first problem is nanny government deciding what our children can and can not consume. We should stop that first." Actually the first problem is a fanny government that is owned by lobbyists, including corn, sugar and big agra industries. We need to stop that first.

Anytime a system is distorted, even by "well intentioned" policies, unpredictable disasters will follow. IMHO, just as artificially low interest rates caused the housing bubble, the obesity epidemic is caused by farm subsidies and sugar tariffs.

Removing the fat from milk does affect the taste but Short Time High Temperature (STHT) pastuerization does more damage to the taste.

If you haven't seen Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology, lecture Sugar: The Bitter Truth, check it out, very interesting. In addition, he explains why the low fat diet research was flawed. You can find it on youtube - sorry can't post the link.
marko
1 / 5 (1) May 09, 2011
Its disgraceful how the United States is profiting off young children by dosing them up with sugary foods.

This is called child abuse.

Cola and other 'soft'-drinks should be banned for consumption by children as well, for the same reasons.
Javinator
5 / 5 (1) May 09, 2011
"Chocolate milk is soda in drag," said Ann Cooper, director of nutrition services


The difference between chocolate milk and regular milk is essentially sugar and flavoring. You still get the nutrients from the chocolate milk that you would get from regular milk (calcium, protein, etc).

Pop gives essentially no nutrients. Of course skim milk or other white milk without flavoring is going to be better for you than chocolate milk, but to equate pop and chocolate milk is to show ignorance on the topic (which is brutal when you're the director of nutrition services for a school).

The calcium obtained from milk is somewhat overrated. Sure, you're actually getting some, BUT it's without the essential magnesium to help absorb it


Milk contains magnesium.
barakn
3 / 5 (1) May 09, 2011
I'm sure that after all those children develop diabetes they'll be thrilled to learn they were getting enough calcium.
Javinator
5 / 5 (1) May 09, 2011
I'm sure that after all those children develop diabetes they'll be thrilled to learn they were getting enough calcium.


If the adults moderate the chocolate milk there's no issues. An outright ban is ridiculous overkill.
Skepticus
not rated yet May 10, 2011
I'm sure that after all those children develop diabetes they'll be thrilled to learn they were getting enough calcium.


If the adults moderate the chocolate milk there's no issues. An outright ban is ridiculous overkill.

Looking at the type of unhealthy foods and their portions of typical American diet, I won't hold my breath over their understanding of the mystical concept of "moderation".
CSharpner
not rated yet May 10, 2011
These are the money quotes:

Cooper and others argued children will drink plain milk if that's what's offered.
...
But efforts by some other districts turned sour after children drank less milk.
...
Boulder Valley hasn't been barraged with complaints since removing chocolate milk two years ago, but it hasn't tracked whether milk consumption has dropped, she said.
...
Suburban Los Angeles seventh-grader Nacole Johnson said plain milk tastes yucky. If there were no chocolate milk, "I wouldn't drink it," she said.


Don't ban the flavored milk. But, maybe they could implement some sort of coupon system... One flavored milk coupon for every 5 laps you run around the gym, or for each full serving of your veggies you eat. Same for Coke, but maybe 10 laps or 2 full servings of veggies. Make the coupons made out to the student that performed the work (so they can't work up a scam on selling them to the fat kids).
Javinator
not rated yet May 10, 2011
Looking at the type of unhealthy foods and their portions of typical American diet, I won't hold my breath over their understanding of the mystical concept of "moderation".


True.

Unless they're looking to enforce national food and drink bans on all unhealthy substances (which really isn't fair to those who can moderate themselves), this ban will do nothing but have less kids drinking milk. Moderation at home is what's required to combat the obesity.

Given the availability of fatty foods and the lack of moderation, I'm sure natural selection will kick in a few more generations.

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