Chocolate Milk Goes After "Food Police"

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Thanks to Marlene Schwartz of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale for alerting me to this Associated Press report about the new dairy industry campaign to rescue chocolate milk from the food police. This, you will not be surprised to hear, is the latest activity funded by the milk checkoff program, a USDA-administered program that requires certain commodity producers to contribute funds to a kitty to be used for generic marketing. One such program is MilkPep, the incredibly well funded marketing group that together with the Dairy Council invented the "Got Milk" mustache campaign.

MilkPep is now the proud defender of chocolate milk against efforts to get it out of schools. Why would anyone be so mean as to want to do that? Maybe because chocolate milk has more sugar and calories than plain milk? No matter. MilkPet is stepping up to the plate. Its $500,000 to $1,000,000 "raise your hand for chocolate milk" campaign takes on those pesky nutrition advocates who think that kids ought to be eating something other than sweets in schools.

The rationale for the campaign? If you get rid of chocolate milk, kids won't drink milk. You will deprive kids of the nutrients in milk and contribute to the "milk deficit." After all, this rationale goes, chocolate milk is better than soda (Oops. Didn't we just hear something like this relative to the Smart Choices fiasco?).

OK. Let's look at what this is really about:

    • Schools represent sales of 460 million gallons of milk--more than 7 percent of total milk sales

    • More than half (54 percent) of flavored milk is sold in schools

    • Chocolate milk is a key growth area for milk processors

MilkPep has produced a slide show to help companies take action. The slides advise allies to go on a "chocolate milk offensive":

    • Do public relations

    • Get bloggers on board

    • Engage moms through social media

    • Take advantage of Super Bowl ads--the campaign intends to fund one

    • Reach out to media

Doesn't this sound like something ripe for satire? Colbert! We need you!

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Marion Nestle is a professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. She is the author of Food Politics, Safe Food, What to Eat, and Pet Food Politics. More

Nestle also holds appointments as Professor of Sociology at NYU and Visiting Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell. She is the author of three prize-winning books: Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health (revised edition, 2007), Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety (2003), and What to Eat (2006). Her most recent book is Feed Your Pet Right: The Authoritative Guide to Feeding Your Dog and Cat. She writes the Food Matters column for The San Francisco Chronicle and blogs almost daily at Food Politics.

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