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Nutrition standards for foods in schools are generally good, but some small changes would be helpful to encourage consumption of nutrient-rich dairy products, IDFA told the U.S. Department of Agriculture in comments filed Monday. The comments provided a response to USDA’s interim final rule setting nutrition standards for competitive foods and beverages sold in schools.
IDFA specifically commended USDA for setting a limit of sugar content for competitive foods at no more than 35 percent of sugar by weight. Other changes IDFA recommended were to clarify the limit of saturated fat content, to allow for low-fat flavored milk as a competitive beverage and to exempt reduced-fat cheese from fat and saturated-fat limits when it is used in combination foods.
All foods and beverages sold in schools during the school day that are not part of a reimbursable breakfast or lunch are considered competitive foods and beverages. These include products sold a la carte on the lunch line, in school stores or in vending machines.
Since the nutrition standards were part of an interim final rule, they will go into effect for the 2014-2015 school year, but some alterations may still be made before that date. The interim final rule, if left unchanged, would allow for the following dairy products to be available in schools as competitive items:
- Low-fat or fat-free unflavored milk in containers up to eight fluid ounces in elementary schools and up to 12 fluid ounces in middle and high schools.
- Fat-free flavored milk, with no sugar or calorie limits, in containers up to eight fluid ounces in elementary schools and up to 12 fluid ounces in middle and high schools.
- Reduced-fat cheese snacks, including part-skim mozzarella cheese, with 200 or fewer calories and 230 milligrams of sodium or less per portion, as packaged.
- Low-fat ice cream novelties with less than 35 percent calories from fat, less than 10 percent calories from saturated fat and less than 35 percent by weight of total sugar.
- Frozen dairy desserts with less than 35 percent calories from fat, less than 10 percent calories from saturated fat and less than 35 percent by weight of total sugar.
- Low-fat and fat-free flavored and unflavored yogurt, with 35 percent or less total sugar by weight.
“In reviewing the interim final rule, we are pleased with many of the nutrition standards that USDA set that would encourage children to consume healthy, nutrient-dense products, including dairy products, in school,” the comments said.