At long last, the USDA announced that it has released its proposed rules governing the nutritional content of snacks, sodas, and meals sold in competition with federally subsidized school breakfasts and lunches.
As soon as the rules get published in the Federal Register, which is supposed to happen this week, people will have 60 days to file comments. Although USDA has not said when it will issue final rules, it did say that it will give schools another year to implement them.
The rules apply to foods sold outside the school meals in vending machines and a la carte lines. They will not apply to fundraisers. They set minimum standards. States and localities that want stricter standards may do so. A recent CDC analysis says states are already doing this (see Competitive Foods and Beverages in U.S. Schools: A State Policy Analysis).
Under the proposed rules, schools must provide:
- Potable water at no charge [this alone is cause for celebration].
- Real foods that are either something recognizable as a food or something that naturally contains 10% of the Daily Value in calcium, potassium, vitamin D, or fiber.
- Snacks with less than 200 mg sodium per serving.
- Desserts with less than 35% of calories from sugars or less than 35% of weight as sugars.
- Beverages with no more than 40 or 50 calories per 8-ounce serving.
There are plenty of exceptions. I can only guess that the exemption for sweetened yogurt—30 grams of sugars in 8 ounces—has something to do with dairy lobbying.
My immediate reaction: these rules are a big improvement and deserve much support.
Applause to USDA for this one!