WASHINGTON, Jan. 6, 2017 – USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service is giving public schools another year to comply with sodium reduction targets scheduled for the 2017-2018 academic year.

Most schools are complying with the first set of sodium reduction targets, which went into effect July 1, 2014, but some school food authorities and food manufacturers are worried they might not be able to comply with the next target, which becomes effective July 1. The new deadline is July 1, 2018, the FNS said in a memo.

“School food manufacturers require significant lead time to conduct product development,” FNS school nutrition officials said in a memo posted on the agency’s website and publicized by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

The one-year grace period maintains critical sodium reduction efforts to bring school meals within moderate levels of sodium, while providing additional time for schools and food companies for reformulation,” CSPI said.

“The difference between the 2014 and 2017 sodium levels for school lunches is about 300 milligrams, the amount that could be saved by switching from a commercially-prepared version of baked beans to a USDA Foods version or from tater tots with ketchup to baby carrots with ranch dip,” CSPI said. “Many schools and food companies are already meeting the second or third sodium reduction targets,” the last of which goes into effect in 2022.

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The sodium reduction targets were required by the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. CSPI said more than 98 percent of schools have met the 2014 target for school meals “and are providing more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and no trans fat, in addition to healthier snacks and beverages.”

FNS said schools would continue to receive the 6-cent per meal reimbursement rate while they work to meet the targets. In the meantime, “state agencies are encouraged to maintain an open dialogue during the review process and to provide collaborative technical assistance that includes an action plan with reasonable timeframes to achieve and maintain compliance with the dietary specifications for sodium.”

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