With renewed debate over chocolate milk in schools, it’s important not to lose sight of the big picture. Although chocolate milk does have added sugar, it is an important source of calcium, protein and essential vitamins.  

Dairy processors are currently re-formulating chocolate milk so it has less sugar.

Several years ago, dairy industry officials saw this debate coming. Here is an excerpt of an editorial that I wrote for the August 2007 edition of Dairy Herd Management that rings just as true today as it did three and one-half years ago:

 “….Upon reviewing the litany of articles favorable to dairy products, it becomes obvious that milk, cheese and yogurt have extraordinary health benefits. 

“Yet, in today’s world, where many consumers are facing an obesity crisis, those benefits are often overlooked in a quest to reduce calories.  

“Look at what happened earlier this year in the United Kingdom…. Ofcom, the government agency that regulates broadcasters in the UK, introduced a new set of rules designed to crack down on junk-food advertisements on children’s programming. Among the ‘junk food’ items banned: cheese.

“Yes, cheese. The Food Standards Agency in the UK identified foods that are high in fat, sugar or salt, based on a 100-gram serving. Something about cheese got caught in the FSA net — perhaps total fat or calories in 100 grams (or 3.5 ounces), which is a fairly ambitious serving size to begin with. 

“Incredibly, the new rules in the UK do not apply to diet cola — a product devoid of nutritional value. Diet-cola manufacturers can continue to advertise to children.    

“No wonder consumers are confused.

“Part of the reason is food labeling. Food companies are putting anything they can on their packages to try to convince consumers that their products are “low-calorie” or “low-fat.” The companies know the nation is in an obesity crisis, and they want to do everything they can to be on the right side of the issue…. 

 “Hopefully, consumers will see the “big picture” (or overall nutrient profile) rather than having their food choices determined for them solely on the basis of calories.”

That is what we wrote in 2007. Today, some of these issues remain. See the story in today’s newsletter entitled, “Top 10 dietary trends that could impact dairy.”