The federal government should encourage healthy habits, including dairy consumption, as part of its fight against childhood obesity, IDFA said in comments submitted to an interagency task force last Friday. IDFA stressed the significant nutritional benefits of dairy products and highlighted the steps processors are taking, such as reformulating products with less sugar, lower calories and reduced fat, to provide a variety of options.
The Task Force on Childhood Obesity was established by President Obama in February, in conjunction with Michelle Obama's public awareness initiative, "Let's Move." Charged with developing a national plan to end childhood obesity within a generation, the task force last month issued a call for recommendations from industry and the public. The deadline for comments was March 26.
IDFA supports the administration's focus on childhood obesity and its comprehensive, cross-sector approach that includes a variety of stakeholders, including federal agencies, state and local governments, the private sector, community organizations and schools. Members of the task force include senior officials from the White House, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Departments of Agriculture, Education, Health and Human Services and the Interior.
Consistent with Dietary Guidelines
In the comments, IDFA asked the task force to ensure that any changes to the federal feeding programs would be consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which encourage the consumption of nonfat and lowfat milk and dairy products. IDFA also recommended expanding access to healthy products, like yogurt, through the supplemental feeding program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), and conducting more research before making changes to food labels as a way to educate parents.
IDFA offered several additional actions the federal government could take to reduce childhood obesity.
- IDFA supports allowing in school cafeterias only nutritional beverages that positively contribute to a healthy diet, such as lowfat and fat-free milk, water and 100 percent juices.
- IDFA supports gradually reducing the amounts of sugars in lowfat and fat-free flavored milk in school meals to a level of 150 calories per 8 fluid ounces.
- If non-nutritive sweeteners are allowed in other beverages available in schools, these sweeteners should also be allowed in flavored milk. IDFA supports making the necessary changes to the milk standard of identity.
- School meals should be averaged over the course of a week to comply with the requirements of the Dietary Guidelines regarding nutrients and foods to encourage.
- IDFA believes making nutrition standards nationally consistent would make it easier for companies to deliver consistent and economical foods and beverages.
- IDFA encourages further review of the industry pilot study demonstrating that yogurt is a popular choice among WIC participants.
- Nutrition symbols and front-of-package labeling programs should be carefully researched to ensure they are understandable and effective, and they should remain voluntary.
For more information, contact Michelle Matto, IDFA assistant director of nutrition and labeling, at firstname.lastname@example.org.