IDFA Urges IOM to Keep School Nutrition Standards Consistent, yet Flexible
The Institute of Medicine (IOM), a division of the National Academy of Science, is drafting a report to recommend new nutrition standards for foods in schools, and is accepting comments through October. Although the report will not establish new regulations, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is expected to give serious consideration to the report recommendations when they are issued later this fall.
In comments filed on September 7, IDFA emphasized that milk and milk products included in federally funded school meal programs already must meet stringent federal standards, and argued that the report should only address foods and beverages sold apart from these programs. IDFA also urged IOM to consider the age of the school children, the purpose and time of a school event where food and beverages will be served, and the roles that portion size, choices and flavoring play in helping students to meet approved dietary guidelines.
"We believe that national standards for foods in schools should encourage nutrient-dense foods and should be consistent nationwide, while allowing for some local customization and some variation for children's age and time of day," said Michelle Matto, IDFA's assistant director of regulatory affairs, who submitted the comments on behalf of IDFA. Matto previously provided oral comments to IOM regarding the proposed nutrition standards on behalf of the Milk Processor Education Program.
A wide variety of milk, yogurt, cheese and ice cream products are available today in most schools. In its comments, IDFA cites 17 different sources that demonstrate the specific nutritional benefits offered by these products and support their availability in a la carte lunch lines, vending machines and school stores.
"According to the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, small amounts of sugar added to nutrient-dense foods, such as reduced-fat milk products, may help enhance the palatability and intake of these products without contributing excessive calories," the comments state. "Foods with higher fat or sugar content can still fit into a diet that is within the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines," the comments explain, because the guidelines allow for discretionary calories, especially for active students participating in after-school activities.
"IDFA continues to take proactive measures to preserve the daily availability of milk and milk products in schools. We expect this report to have a great deal of impact because it dovetails with other actions currently underway," Matto explained. She cited current efforts to bring the National School Lunch Program in line with the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans as one example.
Although IOM previously announced plans to release the report by the end of October, it's not expected to be published until later in the year. IDFA will continue to monitor the reporting process and will provide updates in future issues of News Update.