Los Angeles milk ban aims to curb child obesity: Have health police run amok?

FRANKFURT AM MAIN, GERMANY - JANUARY 14: British chef Jamie Oliver speaks during the opening of his new dinner show 'Das Jamie Oliver Dinner Frankfurt' on January 14, 2009 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. (Photo by Ralph Orlowski/Getty Images)
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Los Angeles schools banned chocolate and strawberry milk after celebrity chef Jamie Oliver mounted campaign
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(CBS/AP) With childhood obesity a growing problem in the U.S., schools across the country are seeing what they can do to help kids keep the weight off. To do its part, the Los Angeles Unified School District - with about 688,000 students, the nation's second-largest - has implemented a controversial ban of chocolate and strawberry milk.

It joins a growing number of school districts nationwide, including Washington D.C., Boulder Valley, Colo., and Berkeley, Calif., that serve only plain milk at its schools.

The proposal by L.A. Superintendent John Deasy came on the heels of months of criticism by British TV chef and obesity advocate, Jamie Oliver, who said flavored milks contain the sugar equivalent of a candy bar.

In a stunt on his ABC show "Food Revolution," he filled a school bus with sand to represent the amount of added sugar students in Los Angeles drink in a year through flavored milk.

Some lauded the ban.

"Thirty percent of our kids are obese or are on track to diabetes," said Jennie Cook of Food for Lunch, a coalition advocating nutritious school food who has been pushing the district to eliminate flavored milk for the past year. "This is a social justice issue."

Emily Ventura, a researcher with the University of Southern California's Childhood Research Center, said 6,000 parents from the district had signed a petition to eliminate flavored milk from the district.

But board member Tamar Galatzan, the vote's lone dissenter, said health advocates including the American Heart Association say the nutritional benefits of flavored milk outweigh the harm of added sugar - because kids drink less milk if they aren't offered flavored options.

She also points to the hypocrisy of the district serving fruit juices containing 27 to 29 grams of sugar per serving, more than the amount of sugar in flavored milk - 20 grams in 8 ounces of fat-free chocolate milk and 27 grams in fat-free strawberry.

Galatzan is mostly miffed by the perception that the district was caving in to Oliver, who unsuccessfully lobbied the district to be allowed to film in its schools.

"I really don't understand why we're letting a TV chef dictate our policy."

What do you think? Is the chocolate milk ban a good idea? Or just evidence of a growing "nanny state?"