USDA Issues Rule on Milk Being Allowed Anytime, Anywhere in Schools
In a move prompted by the passage of last year's Child Nutrition Act, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published an interim final rule on November 21 that allows fluid milk to be sold anywhere and at anytime on school grounds. Milk processors have often been hindered in offering milk to students beyond the school lunch line when schools have contracts with soft drink companies that include restrictions on milk sales, called exclusivity clauses.
IDFA and the National Milk Producers Federation worked closely together last year to lobby Congress for the "anytime, anywhere" provision in the Child Nutrition Act, which was signed into law on June 30, 2004.
Specifically, USDA's rule stipulates that it is meant "to prohibit direct or indirect restrictions on the sale or marketing of fluid milk on school premises or at school-sponsored events, at anytime or in anyplace in schools participating in the National School Lunch Program."
"This is a major victory for milk processors," said IDFA Senior Marketing Manager Victor Zaborsky. "Milk cannot be excluded from vending machines, a la carte lines, concession stands or anywhere else that a school chooses to sell it."
The rule goes into effect on December 21, 2005, and all schools must amend their beverage contracts to be in compliance with the rule by the beginning of the 2006-2007 school year. USDA notes that the provision covers only 100% milk products (white or flavored); in the original legislative language, products with at least 51% milk had been included. The rule is described as "interim final" since USDA will accept comments on its decision through next May, but unless additional action is announced, the rule will be enforced as published. (To review the USDA interim final rule, click here (.pdf))
The "anytime, anywhere" provision was one of two major provisions regarding school milk in the Child Nutrition Act of 2004. The other provision deals with the expansion of the variety of milks offered on the school lunch line; USDA issued its final rule on that provision last December. (For background information, click here.
After the law's passage, the Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP) launched a comprehensive program to explain the two new milk provisions to school administrators. For more information on this program, milk processors can click here or contact Victor Zaborsky at email@example.com, 202/220-3515.
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Posted December 5, 2005