It’s been rumored for weeks that the Los Angeles Unified School District would remove flavored milk from its menus. Now it’s official.

On Tuesday, the LA school board approved a five-year, $100 million dairy contract that excludes chocolate and strawberry milk, reports The Los Angeles Times. The contract does include low-fat and non-fat plain milk.

LA is now the largest school district in the nation to stop serving flavored milk, ostensibly to combat child obesity. Other school districts that have decided to drop flavored milk in at least some meals include Washington, D.C., Boulder Valley, Colo., Berkeley, Calif., and Minneapolis, Minn.

Dairy-industry groups expressed disappointment over the Los Angeles decision.   

“It is unfortunate that the Los Angeles Unified School District has removed nutrient-rich flavored milk from its menu. The district’s decision conflicts with the nation’s leading health and nutrition organizations, who agree that a small amount of added sugar can be used to increase the palatability of nutrient-dense foods such as low-fat and fat-free chocolate milk,” according to a statement released by Dairy Management Inc., the International Dairy Foods Association and the National Milk Producers Federation. 

“The dairy industry is proud to offer great-tasting, kid-approved flavored milk that is lower in fat, contains less added sugar and has fewer calories than ever before. In fact, the majority of milk in schools today already is low-fat or fat-free, and three-quarters of flavored milk in schools is at or below 150 calories,” the dairy statement said.  

We believe there are far better and more responsible ways to trim calories and added sugars from school meals than removing nutrient-rich chocolate milk from school menus. And, as an industry, we look forward to continuing to work with the Los Angeles Unified School District to ensure kids are getting the benefits associated with drinking milk, regardless of flavor,” the dairy statement added. 

Deana Hildebrand, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension nutrition specialist, said flavored milk offers the same unique nutrient package of nine essential nutrients as unflavored or white milk.

“Flavored milk accounts for about two-thirds of all milk sold in schools,” Hildebrand said. “Milk, whether it be flavored, unflavored, whole, reduced-fat, low fat or fat-free, provides three of the four nutrients in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines,” including calcium, potassium and vitamin D, she adds.

“Overall, fat-free flavored milk is a highly palatable, nourishing beverage that can help children meet current dairy food and calcium intake recommendations,” she said. “The acceptability and availability of nutrient-rich flavored milk in schools is critical. At home, if you choose to offer your child flavored milk, consider purchasing a fat-free or reduced fat variety. It will provide the needed nutrients with fewer calories and saturated fats than whole milk, and less sugar than contained in other sugar-sweetened beverages such as soda or sports drinks.”