Last updated on: 7/19/2011 1:21:57 PM PST
Should Flavored Milk Be Available in Schools?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
The School Nutrition Association wrote in its June 2006 report "Availability of Flavored Milk in Schools," that:

"Flavored milk is offered by 97% of school districts. Almost all school districts (9Milk Vending Machine, 20074%) offer flavored milk five days a week. Milk with reduced fat levels (2%, 1%, or fat-free varieties) is offered by 99% of school districts.

Chocolate milk is almost always offered on the meal line. Chocolate milk with a 1% fat level is the most commonly available variety. About 15% of schools do not offer chocolate on the a la carte line; this reflects that not all school districts have a la carte.

Strawberry milk is offered in about 65% of districts on both the meal line and a la carte line. Low fat (1%) is the most popular fat level for strawberry milk.

Vanilla milk is currently offered by approximately one-quarter of school districts. Low-fat vanilla milk is the most widely available fat level.

Coffee/mocha milk is offered by 10-15% of school districts.

About 12% of school districts serve other flavors on the line. About 14% offer other flavors a la carte. Other flavors might include banana, orange/orange cream, dulce de leche, blue raspberry, raspberry, blueberry, rootbeer, cookies, and cream, and dulce de leche."

June 2006 - School Nutrition Association 

The American Heart Association (AHA) stated the following in their Aug. 24, 2009 publication "Dietary Sugars Intake and Cardiovascular Health: A Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association," published in the Journal of the American Heart Association:

"As expected, a healthy, well-balanced diet contains naturally occurring sugars, because monosaccharides such as fructose and disaccharides such as sucrose and lactose are integral components of fruit, vegetables, dairy products, and many grains. In addition, sugars add desirable sensory effects to many foods, and a sweet taste promotes enjoyment of meals and snacks. In fact, when sugars are added to otherwise nutrient-rich foods, such as sugar-sweetened dairy products like flavored milk and yogurt and sugar-sweetened cereals, the quality of children's and adolescents' diets improves, and in the case of flavored milks, no adverse effects on weight status were found. However, deleterious health effects may occur when sugars are consumed in large amounts."

Aug. 24, 2009 - American Heart Association (AHA) 

PRO (yes)

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 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 

CON (no)

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.]

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

"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 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