USDA proposes school snack rules

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Feb. 1, 2013 - The federal rules governing the types of snacks to be sold in schools are open for public review, USDA announced today. 

The proposed new standards in the "Smart Snacks in School" rule are part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which requires USDA to establish nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools.

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“Providing healthy options throughout school cafeterias, vending machines, and snack bars will complement the gains made with the new, healthy standards for school breakfast and lunch so the healthy choice is the easy choice for our kids," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

USDA said the standards will soon be published in the Federal Register and open for a 60-day public comment period. 

“The standards will not go into effect until at least one full school year after public comment is considered and an implementing rule is published to ensure that schools and vendors have adequate time to adapt,” noted USDA.

The proposed standards “draw on recommendations from the Institute of Medicine, existing voluntary standards already implemented by thousands of schools around the country, and healthy food and beverage offerings already available in the marketplace,” according to the USDA announcement.

The proposal is expected to include requirements for snacks with more whole grains, low fat dairy, fruits, vegetables or protein foods as their main ingredients, as well as being lower in fat, sugar, and sodium.

USDA said the standards will allow variation by age group for factors such as beverage portion size and caffeine content and allow schools to continue traditions like “occasional fundraisers and bake sales.”

The department ensured that standards only affect foods that are sold on school campus during the school day. “Foods sold at an afterschool sporting event or other activity will not be subject to these requirements,” according to the announcement. 

Also, the standards set the minimum requirements for schools, but states and school with stronger standards will be able to maintain their own policies. “USDA's proposal would establish a national baseline of these standards, with the overall goal of improving the health and nutrition of our kids,” noted USDA.

The text of the proposed rule is available here.

Once the rule is published in the Federal Register, which is expected next week, the public will be able to provide feedback through www.regulations.gov. USDA will seek public comment on the proposal for 60 days.

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