Raise awareness, educate on dairy’s behalf

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Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration have issued proposed rules and guidance with potential implications for dairy. The dairy community has an opportunity to raise awareness and educate stakeholders about these proposals and potential resulting implications. National Dairy Council and industry partners will be submitting science-based comments highlighting the critical importance of dairy to USDA and FDA as part of the public processes and will continue to serve as a resource for evidence-based educational support. Midwest Dairy will be submitting science-based comments on the proposed national school meals programs as well. Below are summaries, potential implications and the status of these proposals.
National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program
Nearly 30 million children rely on school meals daily, providing a rich source of dairy in children’s diets. USDA has issued a proposed rule to revise meal patterns for school meals to be consistent with the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Proposed changes:
– Flavored milk: Potentially limiting grade levels that would offer flavored milk options and, additionally, requiring new limits on added sugars across all flavored milk products.
– Yogurt: Requiring limits on added sugars.
– Sodium: Incrementally reducing weekly sodium limits in breakfast and lunch (which may impact the frequency of offering cheese and flavored milk).
– Added sugar: In addition to product limits for milks and yogurts, the rule also proposes a menu-wide limit on added sugars.
Potential implications: Averages for flavored milk and yogurt products that are currently in schools effectively meet the proposed limits. However, these are averaged, and there are some flavored milks and yogurts that would require reformulation to comply. Schools could also choose to achieve added sugar and sodium reduction by cutting back on items that are less nutrient-dense than dairy foods.
Status: The public comment period closes April 10.
FDA guidance on labeling plant-based alternatives
In February, the FDA released a draft guidance relating to the labeling of plant-based milk alternatives and voluntary nutrient statements. The draft guidance notes that FDA will allow the use of the term “milk” on plant-based dairy alternatives. However, if the term “milk” is used and its nutrient levels are lower than the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service fluid milk substitution criteria, the agency encourages manufacturers to include a voluntary nutrient statement that conveys how the product compares to dairy milk.    
Potential implications: If finalized, FDA is recommending that plant-based milk alternative products that use the “milk” nomenclature, but do not contain the same nutrient profile as cow’s milk, include an additional nutrient statement on the product label describing how it is nutritionally different specifically across nine of the recognized nutrients contained in dairy milk: calcium, protein, vitamin A, vitamin D, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin and vitamin B12.
Status: The public comment period closes April 24.
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children
The WIC program serves more than 6 million people monthly, including 43% of the country’s infants. Dairy foods are a central component of WIC and are redeemed by participants at higher rates than most other WIC foods. WIC serves as a critical resource for families in low-income households and promotes consistent and equitable access to healthy, safe and affordable food for pregnant and postpartum individuals, babies and young children. In November 2022, USDA announced proposed changes to the foods available to participants in WIC program.     
Potential implications: The proposed rule would reduce the amount of milk for WIC participants by 2-6 quarts, depending on the food package and age of the participant but, on the flip side, add more yogurt options.
Status: The 60-day comment period closed Feb. 21, and the National Dairy Council submitted comments.

Editorial disclaimer: Dairy checkoff may not engage in advocacy. The information shared is educational and based on science. No advocacy positions or views are expressed or intended with respect to the information above. They do not support or oppose a particular government policy or action and do not disparage another agricultural product.

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