Sugar Vs. Vitamins Debate Over Chocolate Milk
By Bernice Hurst,
Contributing Editor, RetailWire
In some arguments,
opponents can agree to differ but with an issue as important as children’s
nutrition and lifelong health, it is harder, and more important, to reach
in Barrington, Illinois decided a year ago that elementary and middle-school
students should drink unflavored milk with their lunches and banned sweetened
chocolate milk from the menu. Many of those students disagreed and simply
stopped drinking milk. Finally they persuaded the powers that be to re-consider.
As Haley Morris, the ten year old who had gathered petition signatures
asking for the return of flavored milk, put it, “It’s better to have the chocolate
milk than nothing.”
whether the merits of getting calcium and Vitamin D into children outweighs
the harm they might suffer from swallowing it with some three teaspoons
of sugar per half-pint, the flavored version is back on the menu for Fridays
not alone with its dilemma. So many school districts are holding similar
debates over chocolate milk that the dairy industry has invested “upward
of $1 million to defend the drink,” according to the Chicago
Describing it as a “classic” school lunch drink, the paper says the Milk
Processor Education Program, a trade group for the dairy industry, believes
its healthy attributes need to be promoted.
There is little
argument about milk’s benefits for children but there are doubts as to
whether they will get those benefits if deprived of a chocolate version.
Vivien Godfrey, the milk trade group’s chief executive, insists “if kids
don’t care for [the taste of plain milk], they won’t actually drink it.”
On the other
hand, research by Marlene Schwartz of Yale University’s Rudd Center for
Food Policy and Obesity, found that “young children drank it (milk) happily” at
preschools offering a federally funded program. “Schools should not presume
that children will shun no-frills milk,” she concluded.
include fat-free chocolate milk and Barrington’s once-a-week solution.
Ms. Morris and her young friends also pointed out the alternative for many
kids was fruit juice and Gatorade, which also have relatively high sugar
Dr. Frank Greer,
former chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ nutrition committee,
also somewhat agreed.
has more calories from the sweeteners that are in it. There’s no getting
around that,” Dr. Greer told the Trib. “It is an uncomfortable position
to be in when you’re asked this question. I say it comes down to too many
calories or, well, it’s better than other things in the soda machine.”
Questions: Should chocolate milk be banned from schools? What guidelines
should be used to determine what should and shouldn’t be removed from
cafeteria menus? How does cafeteria food impact end-demand for products at
commentary] Part of the problem may be trying to take away what the children
are used to. If they’ve had flavored milk at home, or at school, unflavored
milk becomes an unpopular alternative. But there seems little likelihood of
persuading parents not to introduce it in the first place. And just think how
much the industry would spend fighting that one.