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Press Release 98/63


Kwa Maritane (South Africa) 29 October -- The dairy industry is failing to maintain milk's place in children's diets by emphasizing only its nutritional benefits and the industry should look for ways to promote milk as an attractive drink directly to school children. These were among conclusions reached at a three-day International Milk Conference that concluded here today.

Milk consumption among schoolchildren is on the decline in many countries, according to a survey by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) which found that milk is the main school drink in only 28 percent of the countries surveyed. It said one reason for the decline is promotional activity by competing beverages, and urged the daily industry to "adopt an aggressive consumer-oriented marketing strategy to make milk and milk products attractive to school children."

With so many school children in both developed and developing countries making their own decision on the snacks they consume during school hours, the milk industry faces a great challenge in marketing milk and milk products in schools and to school aged children, FAO said.

The Conference heard evidence that milk is a highly nutritious drink for children, including studies from Thailand and Japan which link increases in the average weight and height of children to the introduction of school milk programmes.

"Despite the controversy on the possible role of milk fat in raising blood cholesterol, current scientific evidence suggests that consumption of milk and milk products in moderation, that is, daily consumption of a glass of milk or eight grams of cheese or one cup of yogurt, by school-aged children does not have an adverse effect on blood cholesterol or increase the risk of coronary heart diseases. The glass of milk provides 50 percent to 75 percent of the calcium requirements of school children, depending on the age, and up to a fifth of their protein requirements," according to one FAO report.

In Jamaica, the UN agency said, a study of 97 undernourished primary school children and 100 well nourished children showed an improvement in verbal fluency tests of the undernourished children after they participated in the school breakfast programme.

According to FAO, school breakfast or mid-morning snack programmes that include milk "improve the diet of children who arrive at school hungry, particularly those from large low-income families, in both developed and developing countries. Studies in the U.S.A. have, however, shown that it is not only children from low-income families who come to school hungry. Many skip breakfast because they wake up late or their working parents had no time to prepare breakfast."

Apart from its nutritional benefit, FAO said, milk is a very convenient ready-to-drink food. Milk products such as yogurt and cheese often require minimal preparation and can therefore be used in schools with basic or no cooking facilities. Pre-packaged milk and milk products can be made available in individual quantities ideal for specific age groups of schoolchildren. Fermented milk products such as yogurt have better keeping qualities compared to fresh milk, particularly in hot climates, FAO said.

The International Milk Conference was hosted by the South African National Committee of the International Dairy Association with the support of FAO and the International Dairy Federation. The Conference was being held at Kwa Maritane in the Pilanesberg National Park in the North West Province of South Africa.


For more information about FAO and the International Milk Conference visit the FAO Website at:


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