Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack responded last week to IDFA’s request to delay implementation of the interim final rule for nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools. Saying the U.S. Department of Agriculture had complied with the timing required by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, Vilsack implied the implementation date will remain the same. He assured IDFA that the department will use the initial period to gather more feedback and assess the need for clarifications or refinements before final rulemaking.
The interim final rule was published in June 2013 and is set to go into effect July 1, 2014, meaning that competitive foods in schools would need to comply with the nutrition standards starting in the 2014-2015 school year. Competitive foods are foods and beverages sold in schools, but not as part of the school meal programs, including a la carte items, vending machine items and products sold in school stores.
IDFA asked for the delay to support members who might need to reformulate dairy products for the new standards. IDFA also asked for clarification on the inconsistent saturated fat limit in the interim final rule.
We are encouraging continued feedback from stakeholders to enable us to provide clarification as necessary and to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of the standards,” Vilsack said. “We strongly believe that there are important lessons to be learned from implementation that will greatly contribute to the development of final rulemaking.”
He added, “We acknowledge your concerns about the cost of reformulation but would like to point out that important flexibilities for dairy foods are already included in the interim final rule.” He mentioned using sugar by weight, exemptions from fat standards for reduced-fat cheese, and the interim rule’s support for low-fat and nonfat milk as examples.
Vilsack offered a clarification on saturated fat levels, saying, “foods eligible to be sold must derive less than 10 percent of their calories from saturated fat. A food that has exactly 10 percent of calories from saturated fat would not meet the standard.”
For more information, contact Cary Frye, IDFA vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.