Dairy groups expressed concern that new school nutrition standards proposed by USDA last week could limit milk consumption. Those standards call for healthier school meals that better align with the agency’s most recent dietary guidelines. They include limiting added sugars in certain products, allowing flavored milk in some circumstances, reducing sodium and emphasizing products that are primarily whole grain. The standards would be implemented in phases over the next several years
“USDA understands that thoughtful implementation of the updates will take time and teamwork,” Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Stacy Dean says. “We’re proposing these changes now to build in plenty of time for planning and collaboration with all of our school nutrition partners.”
Shortly after the proposed standards were released, the National Milk Producers Federation and the International Dairy Foods Association issued a joint statement in response. While they expressed general optimism regarding the standards, they are concerned that new flavored milk rules could reduce dairy demand.
According to the NMPF, low-fat flavored milk is preferred by most school-age children. However, USDA is considering limiting flavored milk to kids in grades 9 through 12.
“Milk is the top source of calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and vitamin D in kids ages 2-18, and 1% flavored milk is a nutrient-dense, low-fat option students will actually choose to drink,” NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern says. “We are pleased USDA is maintaining low-fat flavored milk in schools, providing children with an additional, and favored, choice to access the 13 essential nutrients milk provides, including three of the four nutrients of public health concern. But we question why USDA would propose school meal options that could limit a child’s access to these nutrients, and we urge instead that they expand access to dairy options.”
Mulhern and IDFA President and CEO Michael Dykes said their groups will carefully review the other proposed guidelines and assess their impact before submitting formal comments as requested by USDA.
The public will be able to have their say as well. USDA will begin a 60-day comment period on the proposals staring on Feb. 7. Interested parties can make their views known on the USDA website.