New U.S. school snack food rules clamp down on calories, fat

Thu Jun 27, 2013 5:07pm EDT
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By Yasmeen Abutaleb

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Snack food sold in U.S. schools must be lower in fat, salt and sugar, according to federal rules released on Thursday aimed at giving students more nutritious options and fighting childhood obesity.

In 2010, Congress passed legislation designed to improve child nutrition. Schools have until July 1, 2014, to implement the rules outlined on Thursday.

The regulations, originally due in 2011, largely mirror the U.S. Department of Agriculture's February proposal that limited the fat, salt and sugar content in school snacks and capped portion sizes.

School food administrators fretted about implementing the changes, some groups said the rules were inadequate, and the jury was still out among the target audience - children.

"I see a lot of my friends eating unhealthy lunches," said Max Parsons, a 9-year-old elementary school student in Maryland. "Some of my friends I know won't miss it, but I don't know about the others."

Many U.S. children eat more than half of their daily calories at school. The regulations will cover about 50 million children attending more than 100,000 schools that are part of the federal school lunch program.

The standards only apply to foods and beverages sold on school campuses during the day, and limit vending machine snacks to a maximum of 200 calories per item - less than many regular-sized candy bars.

"It's supporting what moms and dads are doing all across the United States," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a call with reporters.   Continued...

Students at Rose Hill Elementary School (L-R) Destiny Huges, Alexis Reubenstein and Sami Escadjeda choose the salad bar for lunch in Commerce City, Colorado May 1, 2012 instead of hamburgers and potatoes that were offered this day. REUTERS/Rick Wilking