Physicians Group Opposes Legislation to Return Full-fat Cow’s Milk to School Lunchrooms
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a coalition letter to U.S. House of Representatives Leadership, the Physicians Committee, a public health advocacy nonprofit of 17,000 doctor members, expressed its opposition to the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act, which is slated for consideration on the House Floor.
The legislation, H.R. 1147, would force whole dairy milk back into schools. Whole dairy milk is high in saturated fat and poses significant health risks to children. Even more troubling, this legislation would set a dangerous precedent of allowing Congress to carve out special exemptions – at the behest of industry – to school nutrition standards. The House is expected to vote on H.R. 1147 as soon as this week.
“Allowing whole dairy milk to be offered as part of school meals is both unnecessary and harmful to children’s health,” says Noah Praamsma, MS, RDN, nutrition education coordinator for the Physicians Committee. “Rising levels of obesity and type 2 diabetes—both linked to consumption of saturated fat, which is found in whole milk—among children highlights the need to feed our children healthy food and beverages beginning at the earliest life stages.
Full-fat milk is dense in calories, aggravating the risk of obesity and diabetes. The fact that it is high in saturated fat means it can also contribute to cholesterol problems. Over the long run, those who acquire a taste for saturated fat are at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
The Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act would also continue federal barriers that schools and parents face in providing and accessing nondairy substitutes. Currently, nondairy milks are only required to be served if a parent submits a note from a physician documenting a “disability” that restricts their child’s diet. Notably, due to high incidences of lactose intolerance, parents and students of color suffer disproportionately from this burden. Further, lactose intolerance is a specific genetic trait and not a disability, and is some American communities is the norm not the exception.
“Instead of increasing the saturated fat content in school meals, Congress should advance legislation like H.R. 3276, the Healthy Future Students and Earth Pilot Program Act, which would align school nutrition policies with both dietary science and the latest recommendations from organizations like the American Medical Association, which recommends removing barriers for students with lactose intolerance to access nondairy beverages,” says Andrew Binovi, director of government affairs for the Physicians Committee.
Dairy milk, besides being high in saturated fat, provides no nutrients that cannot be found in other sources. Protein, for example, can easily be found in other foods and drinks (like soy milk) that do not contain saturated fat. Rich sources of calcium include kale, broccoli, tofu, nuts, beans, and fortified orange juice.
The Physicians Committee was joined by several other nutrition, environmental, and racial equity organizations expressing opposition to this hazardous legislation and pushing for more healthy and equitable school meals.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in education and research.