TORONTO - The eyebrow-raising question of whether Ontario schools should ban chocolate milk had the Opposition declaring victory Thursday and the governing Liberals crying foul.

Progressive Conservative Ernie Hardeman claims the government backed off a proposed ban on large containers of chocolate milk next fall after he brought it up in the legislature.

A committee that makes recommendations on what should be sold in school vending machines wanted to get rid of the half-litre containers because of their high sugar content, he said.

Smaller containers of chocolate milk would have been allowed, but prohibiting the sale of 500 mL cartons set off alarm bells with dairy farmers who got wind of the plan, Hardeman said.

"That's the most silliest thing I've ever heard," he said in an interview.

"If you buy two containers of 250 mL, it's not rocket science to know that's exactly the same as a 500 mL package. The only difference will be you pay more for it, and supposedly that's going to make you healthier? I don't think so."

The government's nutritional guidelines even urge parents to quench their kids' thirst with half a litre of milk, chocolate milk or fortified soy beverage each day, Hardeman said.

"We have a province telling us we should drink 500 mL a day, and then we have the same province in our school systems saying to the whole world, 'Chocolate milk is not healthy for you,'" he said.

But Education Minister Leona Dombrowsky insists the government was never going to ban the brown liquid and confirmed that schools can keep selling chocolate milk in whatever size carton they want.

"Milk and chocolate milk is available in our schools because it is good for kids," she said.

The government wants to remove junk food like pop, chips and candy bars from school vending machines starting next fall and reviewed the committee's recommendations "very carefully," she said.

But it also considered Canada's Food Guide, which recommends four servings of milk or chocolate milk a day.

"Our goal is to ensure that kids have access to good and healthy food like milk and chocolate milk," said the former agriculture minister.

"You know, 'milk does a body good,'" Dombrowsky said, repeating a well-known slogan for the milk industry. "And that's what we want to make sure that our students have access to."

But the Tories say it's just another misstep for the ban-happy Liberals, who've prohibited pit bulls, pesticides, using cellphones while driving, smoking in vehicles when children are present, and alcohol for any driver age 21 and under.

"It just seems to be that the reason we're doing it is because we can't resist banning things," said Hardeman.

However, Ontario isn't the only jurisdiction where questions are being raised about chocolate milk in the lunchroom.

The debate is raging in U.S. schools with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver leading the fight, saying flavoured milk should be treated no differently than candy or sodas.

Schools in Washington, D.C., have dropped flavoured milk and Florida's board of education is reportedly moving ahead with banning the drink in schools.

Under the plan, only water, low-fat milk and pure fruit juice would be sold in elementary and middle schools. High schools would be able to sell low-sugar and reduced calorie drinks, including diet sodas.

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