No chocolate milk ban in Ontario schools

A proposal to ban large containers of chocolate milk from Ontario's schools will not be implemented, says the province's education minister.

A proposal to ban large containers of chocolate milk from Ontario's schools will not be implemented, says the province's education minister.

The Liberal government has asked a committee to prepare a new policy governing what is sold in school vending machines. The policy, to be released this fall, recommends that schools not be allowed sell milk-based drinks with more than 28 grams of sugar.

Small containers of chocolate milk would still make the cut — a 250-millilitre pack of one per cent partly skimmed chocolate milk contains 26.26 grams of sugar, according to Health Canada's Canadian Nutrient File.

But under the committee's criteria, larger 500-millilitre packs would be excluded from vending machines. The proposal galvanized the Dairy Farmers of Ontario, who have been lobbying the government against the ban.

Education Minister Leona Dombrowsky said Thursday the proposal was just that and the government was never going to ban chocolate milk.

"Our goal has been to focus on banning junk food, like chips, like pop, like candy bars," she said in an interview. "But milk does the body good and we want students to have access to milk in whatever size container they choose."

Mixed messages

But Progressive Conservative MPP Ernie Hardeman said the government reversed course on the proposed ban only after he brought it up in the legislature.

The government's nutritional guidelines even urge parents to quench their kids' thirst with half a litre of milk, chocolate milk or fortified soy beverage each day, Hardeman said.

"We have a province telling us we should drink 500 millilitres a day, and then we have the same province in our school systems saying to the whole world, 'Chocolate milk is not healthy for you,'" he said.

Zannat Reza, a registered Toronto dietitian, said chocolate milk has important nutrients that help kids develop healthy bones.

"And when you look at chocolate milk as a total package, those 16 positive nutrients outweigh any concerns that people might have over the little bit of added sugar that chocolate milk does contain," she said.

Ontario isn't the only jurisdiction where questions are being raised about chocolate milk in the lunchroom.

The debate is raging in U.S. schools, with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver leading the fight, saying flavoured milk should be treated no differently than candy or pop.

Schools in Washington, D.C., have dropped flavoured milk and earlier this week the Florida Board of Education said it will try to ban chocolate milk in its schools.

With files from The Canadian Press