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More than three dozen milk processors this week unveiled a new pledge to cut added sugar in flavored milks served in schools – an attempt to keep these products in schools amid a proposed USDA crackdown on added sugars in school meals. One of the options floated by USDA is to cut flavored milks altogether from elementary and/or middle schools. Another option: Allowing flavored milks across all grades, but limiting added sugar to 10 grams per 8-ounce serving of milk, which is what the dairy companies are now pledging to do.

Added sugar in chocolate milk served in schools has decreased by 50 percent over the past 15 years, per IDFA. The average added sugar content decreased from 16.7 grams in 2007 to 8.2 grams in 2022. Still, flavored milks are the leading source of added sugar in school meals.

The Sugar Association, which represents sugar companies, responded to the news by arguing that alternative sweeteners should not be “encouraged or deployed as a frontline sugar reduction strategy for flavored milk served in schools.” “The use of low- and no- calorie sweeteners in products intended primarily for both children and adults has increased by 300% in recent years, and their presence in food products is easily cloaked from consumers because of FDA’s arcane and outdated food labeling requirements,” the group said. Matt Herrick, a spokesperson for IDFA, said no dairy processors are using artificial sweeteners for school milk and don’t plan to do so. Using alternative sweeteners isn’t part of the commitment, he said.

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