Montgomery County schools ban strawberry milk; it's 'right thing to do'

Montgomery County schools have banned strawberry milk for health reasons, but have left chocolate milk on the shelves. Photo: Chocolate milk remains in Montgomery County schools, despite strawberry milk being banned (AP)

WASHINGTON, December 10, 2013 — The Montgomery County Department of Food and Nutrition Services has banned strawberry milk from the county’s school system, citing popularity and health concerns.

Interestingly, chocolate milk will remain on the shelves and be available to students. The strawberry milk does not actually have any strawberries in it; instead it is merely a mix of regular milk, sugar, and artificial food coloring Red 40. This particular food coloring has been linked to hyperactivity in children, which is the main rationale for the ban.  

The St. George newspaper discusses the ban. “The drink is not as popular as chocolate milk and not as nutritious as plain milk, officials say. So at a time of growing concern about healthy foods for children, the pink milk has lost its place on refrigerated shelves in Maryland’s largest school system.”

“It’s the right thing to do,” said Marla R. Caplon in a statement, Montgomery’s director of food and nutrition services, to the Washington Post. “Milk is not naturally pink. There are artificial colors and there are preservatives in the milk, and in wanting to do the best for the kids, strawberry really isn’t necessary.”

According to the Washington Post, Montgomery County students drank more than 14,000 gallons of strawberry milk in October alone. In contrast, students drank 110,250 gallons of chocolate milk, explaining why this flavor of milk is not also being eliminated.

“We know that if flavored milk is eliminated, then fewer students will consume milk, and that is a concern,” explained Caplon to the Washington Post. “There are students that are going to be disappointed, but I believe that a student who would normally take strawberry milk will take chocolate milk.”

The ban ends a near six year run of the flavored milk in Montgomery County, compared to nearly forty years of chocolate flavoring.

Not everyone is a fan of removing the colored milk. Jody Vona, president of Dairy Maid Dairy company, located Frederick, Md., opposes the ban. Her company is responsible for supplying strawberry milk to Montgomery County. Vona supports the use of food die, telling the Washington Post that the government “would not allow it to be in a food product if it was harmful.”

Across the nation, the Los Angeles Unified School District removed strawberry milk from its schools in 2011.


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Rahat Husain

Rahat Husain has been working as a columnist since 2013 when he joined the Communities. With an interest in America and Islam, Rahat is a prolific writer on contemporary and international issues.


In addition to writing for the Communities, Rahat Husain is an Attorney based in the Washington DC Metropolitan area. He is the Director of Legal and Policy Affairs at UMAA Advocacy. For the past six years, Mr. Husain has worked with Congressmen, Senators, federal agencies, think tanks, NGOs, policy institutes, and academic experts to advocate on behalf of Shia Muslim issues, both political and humanitarian. UMAA hosts one of the largest gatherings of Shia Ithna Asheri Muslims in North America at its annual convention.


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