The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) requested a delay in the implementation date for the interim final rule for nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools. 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.
In a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, IDFA highlighted hurdles to complying with the current deadline, including the length of time needed to reformulate dairy products for the new standards and the inconsistent saturated fat limit in the interim final rule. If granted, the extension would delay implementation of nutrition standards for foods and beverages sold in schools until at least one year following the release of the final rule.
“An implementation following the final rule will ensure that products available are consistent, which will be easier for schools, students and suppliers,” stated the letter.
While this request is pending, IDFA encourages members to take steps to comply with the interim final rule by the published deadline. Since the nutrition standards were published as an interim final rule, they will go into effect for the 2014-2015 school year without any other action from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In order to deal with the unclear limit on saturated fat, companies may choose to formulate to the more conservative limit of less than 10% of calories from saturated fat. A summary of the nutrition standards under the interim final rule is available here.
Process to Request a Waiver
Dairy companies that are concerned that they may not be able to meet the requirements of the interim final rule may also talk to their school district customers about a waiver process that will soon be released by USDA.
Under a provision passed in Congress last month, schools may request a delay to comply with the new nutrition standards for food and beverages sold in schools. The 2014 omnibus funding bill directs USDA to establish a waiver approval process by April 17, 2014, that will apply to regulations set to go into effect on July 1, 2014. To qualify for the waiver, schools must demonstrate that they cannot comply with the new regulations without incurring additional expenses during the 2014- 2015 school year.