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The Associated Press August 24, 2011, 8:12PM ET

Milk group says it has improved flavored milk

School's back in session in many towns, and the milk industry says kids will be sipping on slightly healthier flavored milk this year.

The Milk Processor Education Program, a trade group, says many of its members have worked over the past five years to lower the calories and sugar in milk sweetened with chocolate or other flavorings as concern has grown that it is contributing to childhood obesity.

The group, the same one behind the "Got Milk?" campaign, said this week that milk companies across the U.S. are reformulating flavored milk while preserving its nutritional value and taste. The new products aim for 150 calories and fewer than 22 grams of all types of sugar per serving. Milk naturally contains the sugar lactose.

"Milk is a nutritious, core component of school meals, and the milk industry is committed to offering a product that meets school nutrition standards and is appealing to students," said Vivien Godfrey, the group's CEO. "Whether plain or flavored, milk contributes so many vital nutrients to a child's diet, and we want to do our part to be sure the milk on the tray is enjoyed and actually consumed with the meal."

Some schools and districts have removed chocolate and other flavored milks from their cafeterias, but the industry argues that has cut down on overall milk consumption, which makes it difficult to meet children's needs for such nutrients as calcium, vitamin D and potassium.

The group has faced criticism from health advocates and schools for promoting flavored milk.

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