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Malloy Vetoes Ban on Chocolate Milk

by Hugh McQuaid & Christine Stuart | Jun 12, 2014 12:22pm
(7) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Agriculture, Business, Economics, Legal, Local Politics, State Capitol

Courtesy of Twitter

(Updated 2:37 p.m.) School children across the state can breathe a sigh of relief: Gov. Dannel P. Malloy vetoed a bill Thursday that would have prohibited the sale of chocolate milk in Connecticut schools.

Malloy had previously indicated he did not support such a ban, which was included in a technical bill, but was unsure whether his administration could find an administrative alternative to squashing the entire piece of legislation.

Prior to announcing the veto, Malloy’s spokesman Andrew Doba suggested the governor had resolved the issue Thursday morning when he tweeted a photo of Malloy drinking a bottle of chocolate milk in his office with the text, “Got chocolate milk???”

The bill would have only allowed the sale of “low-fat milk that is unflavored or fat-free milk that is flavored or unflavored that contains no artificial sweeteners, nonnutritive sweeteners or sugar alcohols, no added sodium and no more than four grams of sugar per ounce.” Essentially, the language would have banned the sale of chocolate milk because of its sodium content. It’s not clear whether the milk industry is capable of producing chocolate milk without added sodium.

Registered dietitians like Pat Baird, president of the Connecticut Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, claimed milk consumption would drop off drastically if chocolate milk, which contains sodium, was banned.

“School chocolate milk has between 60-90 mg added sodium, which is only 2-4 percent of sodium intake in a day,” Baird said in May. “Removing chocolate milk hardly moves the needle on added sodium intake; but what it does remove is critical nutrients for growth and development.”

Rep. Tim Ackert, R-Coventry, has said they were told by legislative attorneys that they had to adopt the ban on certain types of milk based on the 2010 federal Hunger-Free Kids Act. However, the bill would have made Connecticut the first state in the nation to ban chocolate milk based in part on the language surrounding the sodium levels.

“I think that there may be some unintended overreach, so the idea that salt is not good for you or excess salt is not good for you is true,” Malloy said in May. “We should get as much salt out of processed foods as we can. On the other hand, low amounts, trace amounts — we all need salt. That’s a reality. We can’t live without salt. In fact, other than water, the next biggest thing in our body is salt.”

Malloy has said finding the right balance is appropriate and “perhaps that balance was missed here.” He said it was missed because “in part people didn’t come forward and talk about this issue even though it was fully vetted and had a hearing and that sort of thing.”

John Bailey II, of the American Heart Association, was the only person to testify in favor of the beverage provision in March during the public hearing on the bill.

“Even if students eat a healthy lunch, research shows they often still consume excess calories from a la carte items their cafeteria might serve,” Bailey told the Education Committee. “That’s why clearly defining nutritional standards for milks and setting the standards for healthier beverage options is critical for improving children’s diets and reversing the childhood obesity epidemic.”

Malloy said it would have been better if the chocolate milk people had come forward before the bill was unanimously passed by both chambers.

“Let me assure you, one way or the other, we’re serving chocolate milk,” he said last week.

The chocolate milk prohibition was an unintended consequence of a broader piece of legislation and Malloy’s veto effectively kills a number of other minor changes to state education policy.

The bill would have changed the number of times students are required to undergo medical checks for vision, hearing, and posture. It also would have indemnified teacher mentors and teacher reviewers against lawsuits and changed the length of appointments for professional standards administrators.

The legislation would have specified that vo-ag equipment purchased through state grants can only be used by vo-ag centers. It would have required parents to notify school districts if their children were placed on a waiting list for a magnet school.

The bill also would have renamed the special masters who supervise troubled school districts and changed their title to “district improvement specialists.”

State Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, who co-chairs the Education Committee, said there were good things in the bill that would have been nice to see made into law. However, he understands and supports the governor’s veto.

“Obviously, the world will continue to turn on its axis,” Fleischmann said. “I think the governor made the right decision.”

Fleischmann said he was frustrated with the Education Department consultant who told legislative attorneys that they had to draft the bill this way if it wanted to comply with the federal Hunger-Free Kids Act. He said no one in the dairy industry gave legislators any advance warning that the “no sodium” provision would ban chocolate milk when the amendment had been on file for weeks before the bill passed on the final night of the legislative session.

That said “I have young children and I believe it’s important to have chocolate milk available to kids,” Fleischmann said.

Will the state lose federal funding because of Malloy’s veto?

A spokeswoman for the state Education Department said “no.”

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(7) Comments

posted by: NoNonsense2014 | June 12, 2014  1:28pm

Excellent decision, Governor Malloy. Bravo! The ban was stupid. But it’s too bad school kids can’t vote; I’m not sure the veto will influence their parents’ votes.

posted by: MTC | June 12, 2014  3:13pm

As President of the Association of School Nurses of CT and a pediatric Primary Care Provider, I’m disappointed that important school health legislation can get lumped together with this issue, and suffer the consequences of this veto. The media frenzy around making this the “chocolate milk bill” is disturbing. The only legitimate concern about providing chocolate milk should be a concern about students having access to Calcium and Vitamin D - so why isn’t anyone else talking about perfectly reasonable nutritional alternatives like yogurt, low-fat cheese, and fortified OJ (which actually has more calcium than milk!)? I’m not opposed to giving kids reasonable nutritional options, including a version of chocolate milk without so much high-fructose corn syrup/calories, artificial additives, let alone the sodium - I’m troubled by our faulty legislative and bureaucratic process that led to this problem. I also think that if we’re going to address legitimate health and nutrition concerns, including obesity and bone health, we need to appreciate that chocolate milk is not the solution, and needs to be kept in proper perspective - it’s a treat, not a nutritional staple.

posted by: Common Sense | June 12, 2014  3:18pm

Chocolate milk is a clever ploy by Malloy as a diversion from the monumental state problems which he helped create and is not attempting to correct. His acting abilities which he gained as a lawyer in court makes him a good “Acting Governor.”

posted by: justsayin | June 12, 2014  6:47pm

MTC, let the kids have chocolate milk at school. Let the parents make the rest of the decisions on their health. Government should focus on real issues, not photo op items.

posted by: Michele | June 13, 2014  8:56am

MTC: Thank you for a sane voice in all of the pathos surrounding the very idea of depriving children of chocolate milk. If it were only chocolate milk with a little bit of sugar and vanilla that would be one thing. But as you pointed out, public school cafeteria chocolate milk contains high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, sometimes artificial sweeteners, and other non-nutritive additives that are just not good for children’s growing bodies. My children love yogurt and cheese. Why don’t they offer string cheese or yogurt? There are a lot healthier choices than chocolate milk, but parents seem to think that the, and school systems, nutritionists, and politicians cannot make a healthy choice without hurting the poor little tykes. My guess is that this was a veto brought about by pressure from big food, chemical companies and the huge dairy lobby. This had nothing to do with children’s health.

posted by: MTC | June 13, 2014  10:37am

Michelle - I hope more parents like you speak up about meaningful nutritional options for kids in school and put this chocolate milk charade in perspective. When did we abandon unflavored milk as a nutritional staple? Do we expect all our kids to come home and open a refrigerator full of chocolate milk, and tell their parents it’s the only kind they’ll drink? Then why do we accept this standard at school? This ploy is very negative role-modeling. And yes, I agree parents should be the main role model in kid’s lives, but that job gets much more difficult when schools and government are sending conflicting messages. I’m not saying kids shouldn’t have a choice - I think they should have more and better choices. The Governor had the opportunity to take the high road, support all the other important aspects of this legislation, and work with the health professionals in school on options that could have a relevant impact on kid’s health - instead of a cheesy photo op.

posted by: GBear423 | June 13, 2014  12:26pm

GBear423

I like chocolate milk.

Can we let the parents worry about their kids’??  PLEASE?

this is less about what they eat in a cafeteria and more about what happens hours before they sleep.  The kids grab a pop outta the fridge and plop down in front of their xbox when they get home that is the cause of the poor health.  The kids that play soccer, basketball, work on family farms, etc after school are not having any issues.