Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine on Friday filed a petition asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to issue a report to Congress recommending an amendment to the National School Lunch Act. The amendment would exclude dairy milk as a required component of school lunches.
The group calls milk an "ineffective placebo" and says a large body of research shows that consuming milk does not improve bone health and does not prevent bone fractures and injury in children and adults, and claims milk is the number one source of saturated fat in children's diets.
"Milk doesn't make children grow taller and stronger, but it can make them heavier," says PCRM nutrition education director Susan Levin, M.S., R.D. "We are asking Congress and the USDA to put children's interests above the interests of the dairy industry. Focusing on milk as the single most important source of calcium in children's diets distracts schools and parents from foods that can actually build bones, like beans and leafy greens."
She said soymilk and rice milk contains calcium and is low in sodium and free of "animal protein that can cause calcium to be excreted from the body."
In a statement following USDA's school meal standards, the National Milk Producers Federation President and CEO Jerry Kozak said milk is the single largest contributor of nutrients in kids' diets, and the options offered are either low-fat or fat free.
"A single glass of milk delivers a very affordable package of nine essential nutrients important to good health, including calcium, potassium, phosphorus, protein and vitamins A, D and B12," Kozak said.
Kozak added that since 2006, the dairy industry has taken steps to reduce sugar content in flavored milks by 40%, and flavored milk contributes 3% of the added sugar in children's diets, as compared to 45% in fruit drinks and soft drinks.
Low-fat and fat-free yogurt and cheese are also distributed to schools through the USDA.
By USDA standards updated in January, eight ounces of fluid milk and at least two different options (regular or flavored) must be offered with breakfast and lunch provided at school.