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IDFA, Others Urge USDA to Base Food Policy Decisions on Science

Dec 12, 2017

A coalition of 14 trade associations, including IDFA, sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue last week to discuss sodium targets in schools and stress the importance of basing U.S. food policies on scientific evidence and consensus. The coalition sent the letter in response to the interim final rule regarding Flexibilities for Milk, Whole Grains and Sodium Requirements in Child Nutrition Programs that the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued last month. The letter emphasized the important role of the dietary reference intakes, or DRIs, for sodium and potassium, which are currently being review by a committee of experts.

“We believe that regulations on sodium, such as the sodium targets set for the school meals programs, should be informed by the most recent, relevant and accurate scientific research and analyses available,” the coalition said in the letter. “The DRI is of utmost importance because it will set the stage for all federal and state-level nutrition policies.”

The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 required the U.S. Department of Agriculture to update school nutrition standards, including a reduction in the sodium content of school meals phased over a 10-year period. The first reduction, target one, took effect in 2014.

The second reduction, target two, was paused in May with a proclamation from the secretary that said schools currently meeting target one levels for sodium would be considered in compliance with USDA sodium requirements through 2020. The interim final rule issued last month would keep the target one levels for the school breakfast and lunch programs at least through the 2018-2019 school year.

IDFA has consistently opposed the reduction of sodium below target one levels for school meals because of the critical role that adequate sodium levels play in ensuring quality and safety in cheeses.

In the letter, the coalition applauded USDA for the interim final rule, saying that maintaining the target one reduction demonstrates that science is leading policy. Read the letter here

Call to Expand Committee

Last month, IDFA and the National Milk Producers Federation filed joint comments with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to support the revision of dietary reference intakes (DRIs) for sodium and potassium and to call for additional members with a range of experience and points of view.

“The committee members should approach their task with an open mind, and it seems to us that selecting members with multiple viewpoints will best assure the kind of robust discussion and critical examination of the evidence which characterizes scientific collaboration at its best,” they said in the comments.

For more information, contact Michelle Matto, IDFA nutrition and labeling consultant, at

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