Sunday, December 26, 2010

New Florida Ag Chief Would Stop Decision on Chocolate Milk

The incoming state agriculture commissioner in Florida has asked the state's board of education to delay a decision on whether to remove sugary flavored milk from schools and has suggested that the agriculture department might take over school cafeterias there.

Florida's board of education had been poised to decide whether chocolate milk should be banned from schools because of sugar that contributes to an epidemic of childhood obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that Adam Putnam, who sill soon take over as head of Florida's agriculture department, has sent the board of education a letter asking for a halt to any move to eliminate flavored milk. Putnam, a former Republican congressmen from a citrus farming family in Florida, will be pushing for his department to take control of food served in Florida schools, according to the Sentinel.

According to the Sentinel, only two other states--Texas and New Jersey--allow agriculture authorities to manage school food. Like the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the national school meals program, agencies on the state level are charged with promoting agricultural products, including those of the dairy industry.

Critics see this as posing a conflict with children's nutrition. On a national level, the dairy industry currently is engaged in an aggressive effort to promote chocolate and other flavored milk in schools nationwide as part of a congressionally mandated "check off" program that is overseen by the USDA.

Other school districts, such as the District of Columbia, have eliminated flavored milk from school menus because of the strong link between sugar and weight-related health issues. A one-cup serving of chocolate milk, for instance, typically contains at least 26 grams of sugar, more than half of which is added to the milk in the form of high-fructose corn syrup.

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