Dairy Industry Urged to Stop Promoting High-fat Milk in Schools

Kids Need Calcium and Vitamin D but not Saturated Fat, Says CSPI


The dairy industry uses its lobbying muscle to make it harder for schools to serve only low-fat milk, even though whole and 2% milk are by far the largest sources of saturated fat in children’s diets. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) today accused the dairy industry of putting its profits ahead of the hearts of America’s school-aged children.

“Low-fat milk provides all of the valuable calcium and vitamin D that whole and 2% milk provide, but with little or no saturated fat,” said CSPI nutrition policy director Margo G. Wootan. “Yet the dairy industry markets high-fat milk to school kids, despite the fact that it clogs kids’ arteries.”

Today nearly 200 nutritionists and researchers called on the dairy industry to work with schools, USDA, and Congress to ensure that milk sold in school cafeterias and vending machines is 1% or fat-free. In a letter to the heads of the National Milk Producers Federation, the International Dairy Foods Association, and Dairy Management, Inc., the nutrition professionals pointed out that three out of four children consume more saturated fat than the government recommends, and that a quarter of five- to 10-year-olds have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or other risk factor for heart disease.

Congress is currently reauthorizing school lunch and other child nutrition programs. Thanks to the dairy industry’s lobbying efforts, the bill passed by the House of Representatives includes language that requires schools to offer milk in a “variety of fat contents.” Since there are only four varieties of milk and half of those are high in fat, schools likely will offer at least one high-fat choice. According to CSPI, the House bill is only slightly better than current law, which all but forces schools to offer whole milk.

“We’re all for variety, but schools should provide a variety of good choices, not a variety of bad ones,” Wootan said.

Another industry-backed provision in the House bill would prohibit schools from restricting the sale or promotion of whole or 2% milk in schools anywhere on school grounds. That means schools would not be able to exclude from vending machines milk drinks that have more calories than 20-ounce sodas, such as Hershey’s 14-ounce Vanilla Cream Milk Shake, which has 560 calories plus 8 grams of saturated fat.

“It’s great that the dairy industry is using its clout to help push soda out of schools, but it shouldn’t try to strong arm school systems into selling high-fat milk,” Wootan said. “Some lawmakers are cheerleaders for ‘local control’ of school foods, when Congress is asked to ban junk food in schools. Yet, when schools actually want to provide more nutritious foods, the food industry’s friends in Congress bring the hammer of big government down on them.”

A girl who drinks one cup of 1% milk instead of 2% milk each school day would cut 47,000 calories and 11 pounds of fat from her diet during her 13 years in school, according to CSPI.

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