IDFA: ‘School wellness’ policies should include dairy

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In comments filed last week with USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) reinforced the importance of including dairy products, including flavored milk, in local school wellness policies. These policies were established under the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 and strengthened by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

FNS published a proposed rule in February that created a framework and guidelines for school districts to use when establishing local wellness policies. IDFA responded to the rule, explaining that milk, cheese and yogurt are valuable sources of important nutrients for children, especially protein, and that ice cream and frozen desserts are specially formulated for schools to provide a dairy-based treat with lower levels of fat, added sugar and calories.

“We urge USDA to encourage the continued availability of nutritionally beneficial dairy foods in schools, both as part of school meals and as competitive items,” the comments said. “Dairy products provide important nutrients to children, often nutrients of which they do not consume enough.”

IDFA called on USDA to support policies that align with the interim final rule regarding nutrition standards for competitive foods in schools. The rule, issued last June, set nutritional limits for saturated fat, trans fat, total sugars and calories that still allow a wide range of dairy products to be available to school kids.

The comments also mentioned the recent Cornell University finding that eliminating flavored milk in schools causes students to drink less milk, flavored or white, overall. This finding echoed a survey of schools and milk companies that found school milks sales in the 2012-13 school year had fallen by 5.1 percent, a drop of 23 million gallons.

For more information, contact Michelle Matto, IDFA’s nutrition and labeling consultant, at amfoodnutrition@gmail.com.

 

Nutrition labels

In separate action, IDFA requested a 90-day extension on a U.S. Food & Drug Administration proposal requiring sweeping changes to nutrition labels for all packaged foods and beverages, including virtually all dairy products. IDFA’s request would push the deadline for providing analysis and feedback to Aug. 30.

In conjunction, IDFA scheduled member conference calls to seek input. There will be four separate calls, one each for milk, cheese, yogurt and ice cream processors. They are (all times Eastern):

• Milk: Wednesday, May 7, 1-2 p.m.

• Ice Cream: Wednesday, May 7, 2:30-3:30 p.m.

• Cheese: Thursday, May 8, 1-2: p.m.

• Yogurt: Friday, May 9, 2-3 p.m.

To participate, contact Brian Fields, IDFA regulatory assistant, at bfields@idfa.org to request a phone number and participant code.

“We expect that this extension would improve the food industry’s participation in the rulemaking process and, in turn, would enhance FDA’s ability to finalize the proposed rules efficiently and in a manner that achieves the desired public health objectives while avoiding unnecessary economic impact,” IDFA said in a letter to FDA.



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