Of all the valiant efforts of diet and health do-gooders, trying to get flavored milks out of schools ranks among the most misguided. It is a classic example of an idea that glows with good intentions on the surface but is fraught with negative unintended consequences.
Flavored milks already have been banned in the huge Los Angeles Unified School district and in Colorado's Boulder Valley District. Florida is considering a statewide ban.
Of course, the bans are aimed at reducing the calories, including those from sugar, consumed through school lunches. But here's the problem. An estimated 70 percent of milk consumed in schools in flavored, mostly chocolate.
One study commissioned by the Milk Processor Education Program documented that when flavored milks were removed from school lunch rooms, overall milk consumption declined at least 35 percent. School milk often is the only milk that many students have access to.
Some districts experienced notable declines in school lunch participation when flavored milks no longer were available. Plus, districts would be required to add three to four, often more expensive, food items to compensate for the nutrients not consumed through milk.
Our industry has formidable allies on this issue. The School Nutrition Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Dietetic Association, American Heart Association, and National Medical Association all argue that the nutritional value of flavored low-fat or skim milk outweigh the harm of added sugar.
Fortunately, more than 90 milk companies across the U.S. have taken it upon themselves to reformulate flavored milk. In a half-pint serving, these milks have 150 calories or less and 25 grams of sugar or less. More typical chocolate milk has 170 calories and 28 grams of sugar. Some districts already have back tracked on this issue. Cabell County, W. Va., brought chocolate milk back. Fairfax County, Va., reintroduced a reformulated chocolate milk.
Keeping flavored milks in schools is good for our industry. But, more important, it is good for students. Banning flavored milk from schools would be like throwing the baby out with the bath water.