By Ed Bruske
aka The Slow Cook
The most popular story in today's Washington Post concerns the "controversy" over flavored milk in schools. Two jurisdictions in the paper's readership area--the District of Columbia and Fairfax County--have recently banned milk with added sugar from their cafeterias. But because of complaints from the community, Fairfax County this month announced that it is re-introducing chocolate milk, except with cane sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup.
As if there's a difference!
Too bad the Post reporter behind the story didn't do a little more homework. He might have reported how D.C. parents have pressed to eliminate flavored milk and the incredibly sugary breakfasts Chartwells routinely was serving in D.C. schools, and how sugar unregulated by school meal standards has no place on the menu in the middle of an obesity epidemic.
He might have mentioned the recent report from the Institute of Medicine finding that children are not suffering a "calcium crisis," as the dairy industry would have us believe.
He might have noted that prominent nutritionists, such as Walter Willett, head of the nutriton department at Harvard University, declare that milk is not an essential nutrient.
Or that the "study" so often cited by the dairy industry as indicating kids won't drink milk if it doesn't have sugar in it was really no study at all. It was paid for by the dairy industry!
Or that the problem with chocolate milk--or strawberry milk, or root beer flavored, or grape flavored--isn't the calories, it's the metabolic effects of sugar directly linked to obesity and a host of serious health problems, such as diabetes, hypertension, and coronary artery disease. Sugar is a key player in the so-called "metabolic syndrome."
Healthy school food advocates really need to get their talking points in order on the issue of flavored milk. It's not enough to compare chocolate milk with apple pie. People like apple pie too much. There are plenty of scientifically sound reasons to object to sugary milk served in schools. Reporters for powerful media outlets such as The Washington Post should know what they are.
Fortunately, D.C. Public Schools officials--most importantly food services director Jeffrey Mills--are sticking by their decision to keep sugary milk off the menu. This is something we now want to encode in the district's wellness policy.