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USDA, CSPI Agree with NMPF on Need to Ease Restrictions on Milk in Schools

July 12, 2015

Federal legislation easing restrictions on serving chocolate milk in schools received expressions of support in June from two prominent sources: the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

The School Milk Nutrition Act, developed jointly by NMPF and the International Dairy Foods Association and introduced in Congress this spring, would stem the tide of declining school milk consumption, among other ways, by allowing schools to offer low-fat as well as fat-free flavored milk. Current regulations only allow flavored milk if it is non-fat. Low-fat flavored versions would be restricted to no more than 150 calories per eight-ounce serving under the new legislation. 

At a June hearing of the House Education and Workforce Committee, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack was asked if he could support giving schools the option of offering low-fat flavored milk. According to the Washington publication Politico, Vilsack responded, “I think if adding that option gets kids to drink more milk, we ought to do it.”

Later in the month, Margo Wootan, CSPI’s director of nutrition policy, also supported the concept of relaxing restrictions on flavored milk in schools. Politico quoted Wootan as saying, “I think that having flavored milk in schools is fine. It’s better to have kids drinking fat-free chocolate milk than soda. And one percent milk with a calorie cap is also acceptable to us.”

CSPI, sometimes called the “food police,” is a prominent consumer organization on nutrition issues.

The School Milk Nutrition Act was introduced earlier this year by Representatives Glenn Thompson (R-PA) and Joe Courtney (D-CT) and now has 12 cosponsors. A response to a significant drop in school milk servings since 2012, it reaffirms the requirement that milk be offered with each school meal, and that a variety of milk be offered consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It also would establish a pilot program designed to increase milk consumption through expanded breakfast programs, a la carte sales, and other new outlets.