WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture said it will not implement a waiver to give schools more time to comply with new nutritional standards for competitive foods sold in schools, including vending machines.
Congress had urged the USDA to implement the waiver program by April 17, but now all schools will be required to comply with the rules as of July 1.
The Smart Snacks in School interim rules, issued by the USDA on June 27, establish fat, salt and sugar content limits for competitive products sold outside federally supported meal programs. The rules apply to food and beverages sold through vending machines, student stores, snack bars and as a la carte items.
The rules were drafted to comply with the Healthy and Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which requires the USDA to improve food served in schools. The act was first implemented in 2012 with an overhaul of the meals served in schools under the National School Lunch Program.
Despite a Congressional directive to implement a waiver that gives schools more time to comply, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack testified before the U.S. Congress House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration that the agency does not believe it has the authority to implement the waiver program and, thus, will not proceed with it.
A frequently asked questions document is available to assist the industry in understanding the status, application, implementation dates and enforcement of the new rules.
The National Automatic Merchandising Association said its government affairs team will keep members abreast of developments. NAMA is also gearing up to launch an improved FitPick program that incorporates standards compliant with Smart Snacks Standards. A seminar detailing the program will take place at the NAMA OneShow in Chicago (April 9-11).