Doctors committee urges USDA to remove dairy milk from school menus

By Mark Astley

- Last updated on GMT

Doctors group calls on USDA to remove milk from school lunch program

Related tags: Milk

A controversial committee of doctors has petitioned the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to remove dairy milk from school menus, calling it an “ineffective placebo.”

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) has called on the USDA to issue a report to Congress recommending an amendment to the National School Lunch Act to exclude dairy milk as a required component of meals under the National School Lunch Program.

The PCRM has instead suggested the adoption of calcium-enriched soy milk, rice milk and fruit juice.

The petition cited a large body of research which suggests consuming milk does not improve bone health or reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

According to the PCRM petition, these products contain calcium but are low in sodium and free of animal protein that can cause calcium to be excreted from the body.

Calcium rich alternatives

“The nutritional rationale for including dairy milk in school meal programs was based primarily on its calcium content; therefore dairy milk was presumed to promote bone health and integrity. This supposition was proven false. Abundant evidence has shown that milk has no special effect on bone health and does not prevent fractures in children or adults,” ​the petition states.

“While calcium is an essential nutrient, it is available from many other foods that have a more healthful nutritional profile, compared with dairy products.”

The PCRM has suggested that the public can get its required intake of calcium from beans, green leafy vegetables and non-dairy, calcium-enriched beverages such as soy milk, rice milk and fruit juice.

“Calcium-enriched soymilk contains the same level of calcium as dairy milk, but, unlike dairy milk, it is low in sodium and free of animal protein. An additional benefit to bone health from consuming soy products is soy’s ability to enhance calcium retention,” ​the petition added.

“In light of the abundant scientific evidence, and to better safeguard the health and well-being of the nation’s schoolchildren, USDA should issue a report to Congress recommending that Congress amend the National School Lunch Act to exclude dairy milk as a required component of meals under the National School Lunch Program.”

Dairy industry interests

The National School Lunch Program was established under the 1946 National School Lunch Act, with the dual aim of safeguarding the health of schoolchildren and promoting the consumption of agricultural commodities such as milk.

The US Congress has amended the Act on a number of occasions since its formation. Butter was removed from the program in 1976 and low-fat milk was introduced as an alternative to whole milk in 1989.

Milk doesn’t make children grow taller and stronger, but it can make them heavier,”​ said PCRM nutrition education director Susan Levin, who submitted the petition. “We are asking Congress and the USDA to put children’s interests above the interests of the dairy industry.”

Related topics: Regulation, The obesity problem

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9 comments

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Juice can make you gain weight as well

Posted by Anthony (future RD),

The article stated that milk can make you gain weight. There have been some studies that show milk actually helping with weight loss. Although, I do agree with the antibiotic statements, you can purchase milk without rBST. Fortified juice will make you gain weight also. The juice they would get as a commodity would not be 100% and would probably contain corn syrup or HFCS which isn't part of the fruit.

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Today's milk is frankenfood

Posted by Hanna O. MD,

"Conventional Milk"-has little nutritional value and it not as "bioavailable" as it should be. If raw dairy was consumed, then yes this is of dense nutritional value and a great calcium source as well as other vitamin and mineral sources, but the milk on the market today is" FRANKENFOOD" and should be avoided completely! Lets not forget the antibiotics and hormones additionally pumped into these animals and the GM corn they are fed. Again, an example of denatured food.

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PCRM is wrong

Posted by A. Aydin, Ph.D,

I suggest you focus on advising people about medicine as your title indicates your area of expertise. I don't think milk nutritional value is discussed or covered in medical schools. If it is, and PCRM members are the proof, please redesign the 101 Nutrition course.
The tallest people in Africa are those who rely on milk as their main source of food such as the Maasai tribes. The Maasai have the lowest incidence of dental caries. The tallest people in Europe are the Dutch, who invented the highest milk producing cow, Friesian/Holstein. Take a look at the stature of first generation of American Italians, Hispanic and southern European vs. their parents. And why so many of them became well known professional athletes. The availability of high quality and affordable milk in this country for their children is the main reason. They had and consumed plenty of beans and green leafy vegetables in their countries.
You can't compare the quality of protein or calcium from milk to any other plant source. Have you noticed how much money is being spent on milk/whey proteins by athletes, average people and just healthy people? The use of the word Physician in PCRM should be taken out. It is being used deceptively to cover av ery harmful advice to our children.

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