Not everyone may be up on their proposed rule changes to administrative regulations. That's a shame. Read below to understand more about the proposed rule changes regarding flavored (read: SUGAR-ADDED) dairy products for children.
Recently, the United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) requested the public to comment on proposed rule changes to the meal pattern requirements for the Child and Adult Care Food Program, pursuant to section 221 of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
The statute indicates that changes are necessary to improve participants’ diets by reducing the prevalence of inadequate and excessive intakes of food, nutrients, and calories. To limit added sugars, the Institute of Medicine recommends that flavored milk be limited and served only to adults and children 5 years-of-age and older participating in at-risk afterschool programs. Further, it is recommended that flavored milk not be served to children of any age in traditional childcare or emergency shelters. The Institute of Medicine also recommended limiting the amount of sugar in flavored milk and in yogurt; for flavored milk, no more than 22 grams per 8 fluid ounces serving; for yogurt, no more than 40 grams per 8 ounce serving.
The USDA acknowledges that foods high in sugar, such as some flavored milk and some yogurt, can contribute excess calories to a child’s diet. The USDA also agrees that the sugar limits recommended for these products by the Institute of Medicine seem reasonable based on products currently available in the marketplace.
These proposed changes are an important step in tackling the problem of childhood obesity. One recent, independent peer-reviewed study from Harvard demonstrated a strong link between consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and childhood obesity. Milk and milk products have natural sugar, lactose, which creates a slightly sweet flavor. The addition of sugar and flavorings into milk or yogurt only cause health issues and do not support what the statute has sought to achieve.
To go even further, these proposed changes attempt to improve the health of participants in the program, but by continuing to serve them milk, they may be doing them a disservice. The dairy industry may want to promote life-long dairy consumption by starting kids on sugar-infused milk products; the health benefits of dairy consumption have been controversial. Reducing the amount of sugar allowed in these dairy products served to children will not only reduce their sugar intake in the short-run, it may also decrease their desire for dairy, which has shown to have a myriad of health issues, in the long-run.
Thirty to fifty million Americans (adults and children) are lactose intolerant. The disorder affects some populations more than others: Seventy-five percent of all African-American, Jewish, Mexican-American, and Native American adults are lactose intolerant. Additionally, cow’s milk is the number one cause of food allergies among infants and children, according to the American Gastroenterological Association.
Cow’s milk contains harmful chemicals, hormones, and causes an acidic reaction to the blood’s PH level, causing calcium in bones to leech out. Studies have shown that eating dairy products can increase the rate at which calcium is lost from the body and thereby hasten calcium deficiency diseases, like osteoporosis. A recent study found that a low intake of milk was not associated with any important increase in fracture risk in either men or women. A 2005 review published in Pediatrics showed that milk consumption does not improve bone integrity in children. In a more recent study, researchers tracked the diets, physical activity, and stress fracture incidences of adolescent girls for seven years, and concluded that dairy products and calcium do not prevent stress fractures in adolescent girls. Similarly, the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study, which followed more than 72,000 women for 18 years, showed no protective effect of increased milk consumption on fracture risk.
Prohibiting the serving of flavored milk to young children and placing sugar limits in dairy products served to older children is not only healthy in the short run, but healthy in the long run as well, because they may be less inclined to choose dairy, which is harmful. Instead, focus should be put on children's knowledge of calcium-rich foods such as spinach, kale, almonds, figs, oranges, and tofu. It is important to limit children’s sugar intake, serve healthy choices, and teach children about the connection between diet, nutrition, and overall health. These proposed rule changes will pave the way for even greater reform in subsidized food and nutrition programs in the future.
 Child and Adult Care Food Program, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE: FOOD AND NUTRITION SERVICE, (Jul. 23, 2104), http://www.fns.usda.gov/cacfp/child-and-adult-care-food-program.
 Ludwig et al, Relation between consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and childhood obesity: a prospective, observational analysis. Lancet 2001; Feb 17; 357 (9255):505-8
 Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library, “Lactose Intolerance”. http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/digestive_disorders/lactose_intolerance_85,P00388/
 Michaëlsson Karl, Wolk Alicja, Langenskiöld Sophie, Basu Samar, Warensjö Lemming Eva, Melhus Håkan et al. Milk Intake and Risk of Mortality and Fractures in Women and Men: Cohort Studies BMJ 2014; 349 :g6015
 Kanis JA, Johansson H, Oden A, et al. A Meta-Analysis of Milk Intake and Fracture Risk: Low Utility for Case Finding. Osteoporos Int 2005; 16: 799-804.
 Feskanich D, Willett WC, Colditz GA. Calcium, vitamin D, milk consumption, and hip fractures: a prospective study among postmenopausal women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003;77:504–511.