Last updated on: 10/24/2018 11:11:04 AM PST
Should Flavored Milk Be Available in Schools?
General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD, Director for the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at the University of Connecticut, et al., in a May 24, 2017 study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, titled "Student Acceptance of Plain Milk Increases Significantly 2 Years after Flavored Milk Is Removed from School Cafeterias: An Observational Study," wrote:
"[T]he majority of flavored milk consumed by children overall is consumed at school. It has been suggested that flavored milk falls into a special category of nutrient-dense foods that can be made more palatable through the judicious use of added sugars. Research has found that school-aged children who consume any type of milk at lunch are more likely to meet recommended levels of calcium intake than children who consume nonmilk beverages, and flavored milk in schools increases milk selection and promotes dietary quality. In addition, correlational studies have found that flavored milk consumption is not associated with higher body mass index.
An alternative point of view is that flavored milk should not be served in schools for a variety of reasons. Even one serving of flavored milk that meets the Institute of Medicine's recommended limit of 10 g added sugars represents 40% of a child's daily allowance. A second criticism of flavored milk is that many formulations also contain added sodium, artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners, which are ingredients that concern many parents. Finally, research suggests that children learn how sweet a food is supposed to taste during childhood, and early exposure to sweetened water predicts a preference for sweetened water later in life. Therefore, an additional argument against introducing flavored milk in kindergarten and serving it daily in school is that it may reinforce children's preferences for sweet beverages as a category, and interfere with creating a social norm of drinking water and plain milk."
May 24, 2017 - Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD
Maureen Bligh, MA, RDN, Program Director at the Dairy Council of California, in an article for healthyeating.org (accessed Sep. 20, 2018) titled "Serving Flavored Milk in Schools," wrote:
"[T]he allegation that flavored milk contributes to obesity is factually incorrect. The opposite is actually the case: milk drinkers, even those that consume flavored milk, tend to weigh less, not more. According to a study published in 2008 in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, kids who drank milk were less likely to be overweight. This finding holds true no matter which flavor of milk kids consumed.
Schools that have removed flavored milk have seen a sharp decline in milk consumption, which is bad news for kids' nutrition since milk contains nine essential nutrients and three nutrients that American children tend to under-consume: calcium, potassium and vitamin D... total milk consumption dropped an average of 35 percent when flavored milk was eliminated. Consumption dropped because fewer students were selecting milk and more milk was thrown away…
Some argue that the nutrients lost when kids stop drinking milk can be replaced by other food sources. But to replace all the nutrients from one serving of flavored milk, schools would need to provide two ounces of cheese, one medium egg, one cup of fortified orange juice and a half cantaloupe over the course of a week. That adds up to a lot of extra calories and cost!
Eliminating excess sugar from kids' diets is a worthwhile goal. The added sugar in flavored milk is miniscule (less than 3% of a kid's daily sugar intake). We need to place the focus on what makes the most difference to a child's overall health. Flavored milk offers a practical way of ensuring that kids get all the nutrients they need, even if it takes a few more grams of sugar to do it."
Sep. 20, 2018 - Maureen Bligh, MA, RDN
The American Academy of Pediatrics, in a Mar. 2015 policy statement titled "Snacks, Sweetened Beverages, Added Sugars, and Schools," available from aappublications.org, wrote:
"Instead of prohibiting sugar-sweetened flavored milk, the new USDA [US Department of Agriculture] standards direct schools to offer only a nonfat variety, thus cutting calories and saturated fat but still encouraging consumption. This balanced approach recognizes the contribution of fluid milk as the primary source of 3 of the 4 nutrients of concern cited by the 2010 DGAs [Dietary Guidelines for Americans] (calcium, vitamin D, and potassium)."
Mar. 2015 - American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
Linda R. Stoll, MPH, Executive Director of Food Services for Jeffco Public Schools (Jefferson County, CO), was quoted in the article "The Impact on Student Milk Consumption and Nutrient Intakes from Eliminating Flavored Milk in Schools," available at the Milk Delivers website (accessed July 13, 2011):
"It seems clear to me that there are far better ways to trim calories and added sugar from the menu than removing chocolate milk, which makes so many positive contributions to children's diets...
[C]hocolate milk is just as nutrient-rich as white milk, and if it helps children drink more milk, then that's a positive strategy."
July 13, 2011 - Linda R. Stoll, MPH
Mary M. Murphy, MS, RD, Managing Scientist in Exponent's Health Sciences Center for Chemical Regulation and Food Safety, et al., stated the following in their Apr. 4, 2008 study, "Drinking Flavored or Plain Milk Is Positively Associated with Nutrient Intake and Is Not Associated with Adverse Effects on Weight Status in US Children and Adolescents," published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association:
"Several of the nutrients provided by milk are important for optimal health and growth...
Flavored milks provide another option for meeting the recommended intakes of dairy products, and research in schools shows that students purchase more milk when milk offerings are enhanced and include flavored milk. Servings of plain milk and chocolate milk provide essentially identical amounts of protein, total and saturated fat, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin A, riboflavin, and potassium...
Some schools limit children's access to flavored milk presumably due to concerns that the beverages provide unhealthful levels of added sugars and fat, therefore potentially contributing to the childhood obesity epidemic. Childhood obesity is a significant concern in the United States; data collected between 2003 and 2004 indicate that 17.1% of children and adolescents aged 2 through 19 years were overweight.
We are unaware of evidence that consumption of flavored milk is associated with increased risk for obesity...
Until those data are available, limiting children and adolescents' access to flavored milk due to its higher added sugars or energy content may only have the undesirable effect of further reducing intakes of many essential nutrients provided by milk."
Apr. 4, 2008 - Mary M. Murphy, MS, RD
The National Dairy Council (NDC) stated the following in its 2010 fact sheet "Top Five Reasons to Raise Your Hand for Flavored Milk," available at the Milk Delivers website:
"Flavored milk drinkers consume more milk than exclusively white milk drinkers. Offering flavored low-fat or fat-free milk can help increase milk consumption and boost overall participation in school meal programs...
Flavored milk contains the same nine essential nutrients as white milk and is a healthful alternative to soft drinks.
Low-fat and fat-free flavored milk contains — calcium, potassium, phosphorous, protein, vitamins A, D and B12, riboflavin and niacin (niacin equivalents) — and can help kids meet their calcium recommendations.
Flavored milk drinkers have lower intakes of soft drinks compared to those who do not drink flavored milk...
Flavored milk drinkers do not have higher total fat or calorie intakes than non-milk drinkers.
Children who drink flavored and white milk don't have higher body mass index (BMI) than those who do not drink milk...
Removing flavored milk from schools has been shown to result in a 62-63 percent reduction in milk consumption by kids in kindergarten through 5th grade, a 50 percent reduction in milk consumption by adolescents in 6th through 8th grades, and a 37 percent reduction in milk consumption in adolescents in 9th through 12th grades."
Sep. 18, 2007 - National Dairy Council (NDC)
The American Dietetic Association (ADA) stated the following in its Nov. 11, 2009 press release "Science Supports the Important Role of Milk, Including Flavored Milk, in Children's Nutrition," available at the Eat Right website:
"All milk contains a unique combination of nutrients important for growth and development. And flavored milk accounts for less than 3.5 percent of added sugar intake among children ages 6-12 and less than 2 percent of the added sugar intake among teens. Studies have shown that children who drink flavored milk meet more of their nutrient needs; do not consume more added sugar, fat or calories; and are not heavier than non-milk drinkers...
Flavored milk contains the same nine essential nutrients as white milk – calcium, potassium, phosphorus, protein, vitamins A, D and B12, riboflavin and niacin (niacin equivalents).
Drinking low-fat or fat-free white or flavored milk helps kids get the 3 daily servings* of milk recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and provides three of the five 'nutrients of concern' that children do not get enough of – calcium, potassium and magnesium as well as vitamin D.
Low-fat chocolate milk is the most popular milk choice in schools and kids drink less milk (and get fewer nutrients) if it's taken away."
Nov. 11, 2009 - American Dietetic Association (ADA)
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) wrote in its June 2000 article titled "Clearing Up Confusion on Role of Dairy in Children's Diets," published in its magazine AAP News:
"[T]here appear to be a lot of misconceptions among health care professionals and patients regarding the role of dairy in children's daily diet. This issue is becoming even more important as we move toward changing choices in school vending machines to provide beverages without caffeine such as low-fat or nonfat milk.
Another issue that often arises is the use of flavored milks that provide the same nutrient package as regular milk. Unflavored milk is lower in sugar than flavored milk. However, given the importance of calcium, vitamin D and other key ingredients in the diet of children and adolescents, flavored milks could be a nice alternative since the contribution of added sugars to the overall diet of young children is minimal."
June 2000 - American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
Michael Zemel, PhD, Director of the Nutrition Institute at the University of Tennessee, wrote in an Oct. 2, 2007 e-mail to ProCon.org that:
"Regarding the National School Lunch Program, my position is that milk (or a milk-derived product, such as yogurt) should be a mandatory component of this program.
My reasoning, in brief, is that it is difficult to obtain sufficient calcium from other sources, most children and adolescents (especially female) are at-risk with respect to dietary calcium, and that there are few other foods offered that provide the nutrient density of low-fat or fat-free milk."
Oct. 2, 2007 - Michael Zemel, PhD
Brent Walmsley, MA, MDiv, English teacher at CATCH Prep Charter High School and Founder of SugarWatch, in a June 8, 2016 article for the LA School Report website titled "An Open Letter to the LAUSD Board: Returning Flavored Milk Is an Unhealthy Step for Students," wrote:
"[P]lacing flavored milk back in schools would be in direct opposition to any actions taken to help students to achieve greater academic success. And, when we consider a normal school day, we aren't just talking about one serving. A child could have up to four servings... This amounts to a total of 88 grams of added sugar per day - 3.5 times that amount the World Health Organization recommends...
[M]any would argue that while flavored milk has some drawbacks, drinking milk has many health benefits, and children are more likely to drink milk if it is flavored. In fact, some flavored milk providers actually market their products to schools by claiming that it can be beneficial for building muscle after a rigorous workout, and by making a comparison between the amount of sugar in flavored milk versus soda. These arguments are shortsighted and don't make much sense, however.
First, sugar has been shown to reduce the body's ability to absorb calcium. Thus any health advantages of milk are actually negated once sugar is added. And, second, if the measure for health is just having less sugar that soda, then we can say just about anything is healthy. We must do better...
The [Los Angeles Unified School District] board needs to show wisdom and leadership here. Diminishing the health and well-being of our students by bringing back flavored milk is not displaying either."
June 8, 2016 - Brent Walmsley, MA, MDiv
Anisha Patel, MD, Associate Professor at the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies at the University of California at San Francisco, Laura A. Schmidt, PhD, Dr.PH, Professor at the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, and Diane Dooley, MD, Associate Clinical Professor at the Department of Family & Community Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, in a Letter to the Editor published in the Dec. 2015 edition of Pediatrics titled "Chocolate Milk in Schools," wrote:
"As pediatricians and professors dedicated to the prevention of childhood obesity, we were disappointed by the March 2015 American Academy of Pediatrics' Policy Statement on 'Snacks, Sweetened Beverages, Added Sugars, and Schools.'
The [American Academy of Pediatrics'] Committees' endorsement of adding sugar to the milk of millions of schoolchildren conflicts with the majority of leading health organizations' recommendations, such as the American Heart Association, which recommends that children consume only 3 to 4 teaspoons of added sugar per day. If a child drinks a single 8-oz carton of flavored milk at school, he or she will consume the recommended daily amount of added sugar in 1 sitting...
The evidence shows that sugar-sweetened beverages are a major source of excessive sugar intake for children and that excessive energy and sugar consumption can lead to obesity and dental caries. In light of these findings, we encourage these committees to critically review their statement and reconsider how flavored milk offerings in schools may affect children's health and well-being."
Dec. 2015 - Diane Dooley, MD
Anisha Patel, MD
Laura A. Schmidt, PhD, DrPH
Diane Dooley, MD, Associate Clinical Professor at the Department of Family & Community Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, in an interview with Carey Goldberg for the June 9, 2017 article titled "In Long Fight Over School Chocolate Milk, Perhaps a Whole New Flavor," available from wburg.org, stated:
"The kids I see in my practice, who are all low-income, are not just drinking sugared, flavored milk once a day at school... Sometimes they're drinking it two or three times a day at school, because there's breakfast, lunch, and then there's snack. And then they're drinking it at home, in part because it becomes an expectation.
With an epidemic of obesity in our country... we shouldn't be offering sugared milk, just like we don't offer candy apples in schools."
June 9, 2017 - Diane Dooley, MD
John E. Deasy, PhD, Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District stated the following in an Apr. 26, 2011 letter to the members of the Los Angeles Board of Education, available at the Los Angeles Times website:
"I am recommending the elimination of flavored milk with added sugars in all LAUSD schools in anticipation of the renewal of milk contracts by the Board of Education on June 14, 2011. This change will benefit our students by offering them only milk products that lack the higher amounts of added sugars...
LAUSD cares deeply about student nutrition and our goal is to be the premier school food establishment in America. LAUSD is already a recognized national leader in the effort to promote healthy food and lifestyles to combat diabetes, obesity and other health issues - including the banning of sodas and other drinks high in sugar... the elimination of flavored milk with added sugars further strengthens the District's goal of providing a balanced nutritious meal for all students. Added sugars in our flavored milk products provide an additional 6 to 13 grams of sugars to the milk products served to our students. With the increasing rates of obesity and diabetes of our student population, it is necessary that the District make this decision to promote healthy outcomes for our students."
[Editor's Note: On Tuesday June 14, 2011, the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education voted 5-2 to remove flavored milk from its menus. The 2018-2019 school year, saw a reversal of this ban with the LAUSD allowing all schools to offer low-fat flavored milk during school lunches, breakfasts, and as snacks.]
Apr. 26, 2011 - John E. Deasy, PhD
Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD, Deputy Director for the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, and Kathryn Henderson, PhD, Director for School and Community Initiatives at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, stated the following in their Apr. 20, 2011 article "Chocolate Milk in Schools: Should It Be Banned?," available at the Huffington Post website:
"One source of added sugar that is a staple in school cafeterias is flavored milk. Promoting only unflavored milk is an effective way to reduce the added sugar children consume at school.
First, let's recognize the chocolate milk controversy for what it really is about: marketing. In 2010, the dairy industry's national marketing group, the Milk Processor Education Program, launched a $1 million initiative to promote chocolate milk, especially in schools (where most flavored milk is sold). The dairy industry claims that children will not drink unflavored milk -- adding sugar to it is necessary to ensure adequate calcium intake...
Flavored milk is not the nutritional equivalent of unflavored milk. It is significantly higher in calories, sugar, and sodium, and usually contains artificial colors and flavors. There are 11 grams (nearly three teaspoons) of added sugar in one cup of flavored milk...
Many may feel that flavored milk is being singled out in the debate over food/beverages served in schools. In fact, all over the country school districts have been revising their menus -- cutting out transfat, saturated fat and sugar in all its forms. Reducing sugar in school meals will help children avoid consuming excess discretionary calories, and flavored milk is one place to start."
Apr. 20, 2011 - Kathryn Henderson, PhD
Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD
Jamie Oliver, celebrity chef and nutrition activist, stated the following in his publication "The Hard Facts About Flavored Milk," available at his website (accessed July 12, 2011):
"Milk is a great source of nutrients for kids, but the flavored varieties have more calories, are highly processed and contain unnecessary sugars and additives, which don't add any nutritional value.
The food industry has convinced many schools and parents that they need to serve flavored milk to ensure kids get essential vitamins and minerals, and is backing flavored milk with a million dollar marketing campaign.
Science and common sense don't back that position up. Other dairy products are a good source of nutrition and kids can get calcium from leafy greens, soy, nuts, and beans. All that's needed is those marketing dollars behind good old white milk. We know that with the right backing from the school community, kids are happy to drink it...
[F]lavored milk... has no place in schools... Milk is a great source of nutrients for kids, but the flavored varieties have more calories, are highly processed and contain unnecessary sugars and additives which don't add any nutritional value...
Several studies have shown that drinking sugar-sweetened beverages is linked to obesity and risk for chronic disease; it seems to be the one part of kids' diets most linked to increased weight."
July 12, 2011 - Jamie Oliver
Amy Joy Lanou, PhD, Senior Nutrition Scientist for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, wrote in a Sep. 25, 2007 email to ProCon.org:
"Flavored milks are not a particularly healthy beverage option for children or teens. As with unflavored cow's milk, flavored cow's milk is a significant source of fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol in children's diets. The naturally occurring sugar in cow's milk is lactose, a type of sugar that is not well-digested by many children after about age 4. Flavored milks also have sugar added, often to the point where, ounce for ounce, they contain the same amount of total sugar as soda.
The carbohydrates in cow's milk are primarily comprised of lactose. The additional sugar in chocolate milk is sucrose just like the sugar in colas.
Two percent chocolate milk has 80% more calories and the same amount of sugar as an equivalent serving of cola. Just like 2% cow's milk, 2% chocolate milk has nearly 5 grams of fat per 1 cup serving.
Preferred substitutes for both soda and milk in schools, include water, sparkling water, soy milk, 100 percent fruit juices and vegetable juices, and in some situations sport beverages (i.e. during or after physical activity)."
Sep. 25, 2007 - Amy Joy Lanou, PhD
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) explained in its Oct. 20, 2003 complaint to the Florida Department of Education titled "Complaint to Prohibit or Severely Restrict Sales of Flavored Milk Products in Vending Machines in Public Schools":
"[F]lavored milk products are not a healthy way to get calcium, and their sale in public schools should be prohibited or very severely restricted.
Given the [Florida Department of Education's] legal obligation to choose only foods and beverages that are nutritious and not detrimental to the health of students, there is simply no reasonable justification for failing to take prompt and positive action to prohibit or severely restrict the sale of flavored milk products in school vending machines."
Oct. 20, 2003 - People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
Amy Lanou, PhD, Senior Nutrition Scientist for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, wrote in a Sep. 25, 2007 e-mail to ProCon.org that:
"Cow's milk should not be required as part of federally subsidized meal programs for children. It is estimated that 1 in 4 children in US schools are lactose intolerant. The milk requirement in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs (NSLBP) puts these children at a disadvantage (especially if they actually drink the milk). Imagine trying to sit still at a desk in class while feeling gassy, bloated, and/or suffering from diarrhea or constipation. Milk products are also the number one source of total fat and saturated fat in children's diets, making them far from ideal.
Soy milk or other non-dairy beverages such as rice milk, juice or water definitely should be offered as part of the NSLP. Children should be offered a beverage with their meal. Currently, there is unnecessary overemphasis on calcium-rich beverage consumption for children in the US. Several recent reviews and meta-analyses have shown that increasing children's calcium consumption does not have an appreciable effect on children's bones. For those seeking a calcium-rich beverage, fortified soy and rice milks or fortified juices would be a better option than dairy milk."
Sep. 25, 2007 - Amy Joy Lanou, PhD