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IDFA Submits Comments on Recommended Nutrition Standards for Schools

Jul 23, 2007

IDFA Submits Comments on Recommended Nutrition Standards for Schools

Earlier this month, IDFA submitted comments to the National Academy of Sciences' Institute for Medicine (IOM), urging committee members to reconsider several recommendations in its report on new nutrition standards that would severely limit the sale of dairy products in schools. Specifically, IDFA asked the committee to eliminate the limits on sugar in lowfat or fat-free milk and dairy foods, consider permitting non-nutritive sweeteners in dairy products, and re-evaluate the saturated fat limits for cheese.

"While we do understand efforts to restrict high-calorie, low-nutrient foods and beverages from being available to students in schools, we feel that such limits could inadvertently eliminate some dairy foods, therefore reducing the benefits to students' health," the comments state.

IDFA sent the comments in response to the IOM report released in April that recommended new strict nutrition standards for foods and beverages offered in schools. While they are not proposed regulations, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) or individual schools might choose to adopt them. As is, the recommendations would limit the types of milk, cheese, yogurt and ice cream that schools can offer as a la carte cafeteria items or in vending machines and school stores if. Products sold in school cafeterias under federally assisted lunch programs are not included, because they already meet nutritional standards set by USDA.

The IOM recommendations encourage the consumption of nonfat and lowfat milk and dairy products, fruits, vegetables and whole grain products, but impose restrictions on the sale of foods and beverages containing certain levels of fat, saturated fat, sodium and sugars. These standards would exclude the sale of many snack foods and beverages such as soda, diet soda, sports drinks and flavored waters at school and in related school activities, such as in-school fundraisers.

In its comments, IDFA commends IOM for attempting to restrict student access to foods of minimal nutritional value and for recognizing the importance of milk and milk products in providing good nutrition. IDFA warns, however, that some of the recommendations could inadvertently reduce dairy consumption among students and hinder the meeting of federal nutrition goals for children and teens.

Although the report recognizes the important role that dairy products have in providing calcium and other nutrients in diets, it recommends allowing only small amounts of added sugars for yogurt and flavored milk. These limits would permit just 22 grams of total sugar per eight-ounce serving of flavored milk and 30 grams of sugar per eight-ounce serving of yogurt. Most flavored milks and yogurt currently available would exceed the proposed sugar requirements.

"Since it is estimated that 70% of milk sold in schools is flavored, limiting sugar for flavored milk would undoubtedly severely reduce the amount of milk consumed by children in schools," the comments said.

The IOM's requirements also would eliminate virtually all cheese products, including reduced-fat versions, and much ingredient use of cheese. A ban on most uses of non-nutritive sweeteners, often used in yogurt as well as flavored milk, would further reduce the number of dairy product options for students.

In its comments, IDFA urges IOM committee members to consider the new standards as a guide to an overall eating pattern, like the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and not as restrictions on individual foods.

"It would be beneficial to view the new IOM standards in this same light, considering how foods fit into a total diet, and allowing for more variety in nutrient-dense foods and beverages, such as milk, flavored milks, yogurts and other dairy products," the comments state.

To read the comments, click here (1.3 MB PDF file). For more information, contact Michelle Matto, assistant director of regulatory affairs, at mmatto@idfa.org or 202-220-3523.

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Posted July 23, 2007

 
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