Thursday, March 28, 2013

Competitive Foods in Schools: Let's Keep Dairy in the Mix

   
The 2013 IDFA Ice Cream Technology Conference (March 12 to 13) ended with a very informative processor panel discussion that addressed recently proposed school nutrition regulations and standards, among other nutrition and marketing policies directed towards children. A great deal of discussion centered around a recently proposed USDA rule regarding limitations on competitive foods sold in schools.
 
Did you even know that on February 1, 2013, USDA issued such a proposed rule on competitive foods sold in schools? If you did not know, you are the majority of dairy processors. But here’s the bottom line: THESE PROPOSED RULES COULD HAVE A NEGATIVE IMPACT ON YOUR BUSINESS, BUT YOUR VOICE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE. Comments to USDA are due by April 9, 2013. Please help fix the flaws in the proposed regulation.
 
FACTS:
 
The proposed rule impacts foods and beverages sold outside the reimbursable meal, in other words, foods and beverages sold a la carte, in vending machines and snack bars on campus. This is a particular concern for any marketer that sells ice cream in schools. But it also impacts other dairy products sold in schools, such as milk, yogurt, string cheese and even a slice of pizza with cheese.
 
The proposed regulation limits total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, total sugars and calories. It could also prohibit fortified nutrients from counting toward the program’s requirements for nutrient content.
 
IDFA and its members agree that nutritional standards should be set for competitive foods and beverages sold in schools.
But these standards should encourage consumption of nutritious dairy products and also be practical for schools to implement and proven to work for schools, students and parents.
 
As written, USDA’s recently proposed federal regulation to standardize, and presumably improve the nutritional value of food sold in schools, has some HUGE flaws that will eliminate many dairy, cheese and healthier option ice cream products and will cost school systems an enormous amount of revenue. The regulations will also force ice cream manufacturers (and this will impact their suppliers) to actually make some of the frozen snacks sold in schools less healthy in order to qualify for sale in schools. 
 
“The details of what they are proposing sound great on their website and TV, but the reality of it is astoundingly different,” says Randy Rich, president of Randy Rich, president of Rich Ice Cream Company, and one of the processor panelists at Ice Cream Tech.
 
A major flaw is in how the regulations will limit sugar content. The magic number with sugar is 35%, but there are two options on the table for determining this 35%. The first option is that a maximum be set for 35% of calories in a food to come from total sugar. This option is referred to as C1 and could prevent ice cream from being sold in schools. The second option, C2, and the preferred dairy industry option, is to set a maximum of 35% of a food’s weight to come from total sugar.
 
The following list of comments is available for you to use when contacting USDA about the impact of the rules on ice cream.  (This list is based on comments made by Rich Ice Cream Company.) Feel free to contact Cary Frye at IDFA (cfrye@idfa.org) if you learn more about the impact of these rules on other dairy products and see IDFA’s comments to USDA.
 
To: USDA, please:

  1. Extend the period of time for comments in order to allow sufficient time for manufacturers, distributors, schools, and parents to be heard.
  2.  Adopt the sugar by weight option (C2) option, not the sugar by calories (C1) option, because:
a) Although certainly unintentional, the description in the C1 proposal saying it would allow ice cream to be served is inaccurate and somewhat misleading. The C2 option would allow for low-fat frozen dairy products, including low-fat ice cream. These products are closer in their nutritional content to yogurt than to full-fat ice cream and can be a healthful snack option for kids to purchase a la carte.

b) The C1 option penalizes foods that contain their own natural sugars, such as lactose, which naturally occur in dairy foods and low-fat frozen dairy products.
 
c) The C1 option would prevent manufacturers from selling quality ice cream products. They would have to reformulate products with bulking agents to increase calories while keeping sugar content the same. This is not in the best nutritional interest of children as it adds nutritionally void calories.
 
d) The C2 option has been successfully implemented in school systems. The C1 option (recently recommended by the Institute of Medicine) is an untested standard. 
 
e) The C2 option allows for schools to use these foods to fund everything from copiers to the school lunch program itself, and has been proven financially. Implementation of the C1 standard will have a significant negative financial impact on the school systems.
 
         3. Allow vitamin and nutrient fortification of foods because:
 
a) Adding vitamins and nutrients to foods should be encouraged not discouraged.
 
b) Federal law (CRF 120.10(b)) requires manufacturers to supplement many foods with vitamins and other nutrients in order to preserve their standard of identity. Not allowing vitamin fortification would require manufacturers to violate federal law in order to continue selling these products in the schools.
 
c) These nutrients cannot be distinguished as “added” on the label, so it is impossible to enforce. This is the reason USDA does not distinguish between naturally occurring vs. “added” sugar in its restrictions. Therefore it should use the same standard for all nutrients.
  
EVERYONE reading this blog can help make sure students are given the option to be able to enjoy a delicious and nutritious ice cream snack while on the school campus.
  Please contact USDA using the following link, and cutting and pasting some of the comments above or writing your own. USDA is soliciting comments from the industry and the public until April 9, 2013.
 
Thank you very much to IDFA and Rich Ice Cream Company for reviewing the content of today’s blog and approving its dissemination to the industry. Please take action by contacting USDA. Please forward this blog to others and ask them to take action, too. We can make a difference!
 

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