Drugs, alcohol and … flavored milk? Cartons of this sugary beverage are now on the list of banned substances at Los Angeles-area schools.

chocmilkLA-featured.jpgAs of today, strawberry and chocolate milk will no longer be offered on campuses in the LA Unified School District (LAUSD).  This June, the school board — led by newly elected Superintendent John Deasy — passed a proposal to disallow the drinks after celebrity chef Jamie Oliver criticized the district for offering heavily sugared milk to students.

This change will mean that close to 700,000 children at the city’s almost 700 schools will experience a drastic reduction in the amount of added sugars available to them each day.

According to the National Dairy Council, an 8 oz. carton of flavored milk contains about 64 calories of added sugar. Consuming 2 of these sugar-loaded drinks per day adds 128 calories to a child’s diet, which leads to a total of 23,040 extra calories from sugar per school year.

On his show “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution,” Oliver gave a dramatic demonstration to illustrate these numbers by pumping a school bus, an “icon of trust,” full of 57 tons of sugar – the amount of added sugar consumed by LA schoolchildren in one week – from flavored milk alone.

The sugar filled the bus and spilled out the windows, forming huge piles around it.

But now all that added sugar has been subtracted from LAUSD cafeterias. 


                         Added sugar bus.jpg 

“I can’t tell you how happy that makes me,” Oliver told Deasy after the supe announced his intention to strike flavored milk from the district. “For the last 3 years, flavored milk in the American school food system has been something that offends me, with the rise in early type 2 diabetes,” Oliver said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has noted an uptick in cases of type 2 diabetes, commonly known as “adult-onset diabetes,” among children in recent years.

According to CDC, “Health care providers are finding more and more children with type 2 diabetes, a disease usually diagnosed in adults aged 40 years or older.”

While reducing  sugary drinks is by no means a panacea for childhood diabetes, the CDC says that “research shows a generally positive association between sugar-sweetened beverages and weight.” And obesity has been shown to be a major contributor to type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents, according to CDC.   

“That’s an incredible achievement,” says Oliver of the flavored milk ban. “I know it’s just flavored milk. But that’s one thing. What next?”

“What happens in LA generally happens in the rest of the country,” he said, expressing optimism that the trend would spread throughout the nation.

The District of Columbia, Boulder Valley, CO and Berkley, California school districts had already made the switch to plain milk when LA issued its ban.

There was only one dissenter on the LAUSD board – member Tamar Galatzan.
“I really don’t understand why we’re letting a TV chef dictate our policy,” said Galatzan according to the Huffington Post.

Health groups such as the American Heart Association say that the nutritional benefits of flavored milk outweigh the drawback of added sugar, Galatzan pointed out.

However, district parents, 6,000 of whom signed a petition to end flavored milk in school, favored the decision.

“It’s about youth health … we want students to make healthy choices,” Deasy said, according to CBS Los Angeles. “We want to provide healthy alternatives.”