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Dairy Industry Rallies Against Proposed Federal Sugary Drink Tax

Posted On: 5/28/2009

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International Dairy Foods Association, Connie Tipton, National Milk Producers Federation, Jerry Kozak, Max Baucus, Charles Grassley, tax, soda, sugar-sweetened beverages, dairy, milk, flavored milk, vending, vending machine, vending routes, vending business, automatic retailing, coin-op

WASHINGTON -- The chief executives at two major dairy industry groups are speaking out against a suggested federal excise tax on flavored milk drinks that contain sugar-based sweeteners.

Connie Tipton of the International Dairy Foods Association and Jerry Kozak of the National Milk Producers Federation said flavored milk is part of the solution to the child obesity problem, not a cause, and its consumption needs to be encouraged among kids, not discouraged by a new tax. NMPF represents the farmers who produce the nation's milk, while IDFA represents the processors who pasteurize it and turn it into yogurt, cheese and other finished products.

A tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, including flavored milk, was included in a list of revenue options released May 18 by Sens. Max Baucus (D-MT) and Charles Grassley (R-IA), chairman and ranking Republican, respectively, on the Senate Finance Committee. While no rate was specified, a tax of 3¢ per 12 fl.ozs. could raise as much as $50 billion over 10 years to fund an overhaul of the nation's healthcare system, according to a congressional estimate.

"Milk is a nutrient-rich beverage that is good for kids," Tipton said. "We need to encourage them to drink more and it's no secret kids love flavored milk. Processors have developed lowfat flavored milk options that don't have excessive calories, but switching to no-calorie sweeteners has proved problematic. Still, flavored milk is an excellent way to increase milk consumption and make children's diets more nutritious."

Kozak added that milk is unique in that it provides nine essential nutrients, including calcium and others of which kids don't get enough. In addition, he said, research shows that children who drink flavored and unflavored milk don't have higher body mass indexes than those who do not.

The dairy industry officials pointed out that the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans state that adding a small amount of sugar to nutrient-rich foods like reduced-fat milk enhances their appeal and improves diet without excessive calories. Likewise, Tipton and Kozak said, the American Academy of Pediatrics encourages consumption of low-fat or fat-free milk, including flavored milk, as an alternative to soft drinks.