Lactose Intolerance and School Lunch Policy
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Committee on Nutrition published a statement in 2006 regarding lactose intolerance in infants, children and adolescents. Please pay attention to this article since many schools only sell milk to students at lunch and do not offer any alternative beverages such as water or juice. The reason schools have implemented this milk-only policy is to receive a greater amount of federal money. The more milk a particular school sells then the more money they receive in federal aid. Basically this is a cozy relationship between the milk industry, the government and schools and may not be in the best interest of your child.
According to this AAP report, 70% of the world’s population has primary lactase deficiency. The percentage varies according to ethnicity and is related to the use of dairy products in the diet, resulting in genetic selection of individuals with the ability to digest lactose. In populations with a predominance of dairy foods in the diet, particularly northern European people, as few as 2% of the population has primary lactase deficiency. In contrast, the prevalence of primary lactase deficiency is 50% to 80% in southern Europeans and Hispanic people, 60% to 80% in black and Ashkenazi Jewish people, and almost 100% in Asian and American Indian people. The age of onset and its prevalence differ among various populations. Approximately 20% of Hispanic, Asian, and black children younger than 5 years of age have evidence of lactase deficiency and lactose malabsorption, whereas white children typically do not develop symptoms of lactose intolerance until after 4 or 5 years of age.
I am certain that the demographics of the student body at any school includes more than children of northern European descent. This means that the great majority of students are lactose intolerant and are offered only milk to drink. Having such a school policy in effect may result in “significant discomfort, disrupted quality of life, and loss of school attendance, leisure and sports activities, and work time, all at a cost to individuals, families, and society” per the AAP statement. Make sure your school does not have this disastrous policy in place. There are plenty of dietary alternatives to obtain the needed calcium and without the lactose, namely almond milk and coconut milk.