BOSTON -- The Massachusetts Public Health Council unanimously approved what are considered to be among the most stringent school nutritional guidelines in the nation. They apply to foods and beverages sold through school vending machines, stores and a la carte lines, as well as at events and fundraisers.
Under the new regulations, foods that contain artificial sweeteners, trans fat and caffeine, and those that are fried, are completely banned from schools. The guidelines also limit the amount of fat, sodium and sugar in school foods.
Juices must be 100% fruit juice, breads must be made with whole grains, and flavored milk cannot have more sugar than plain lowfat milk.
Additionally, schools are required to offer fruits and vegetables wherever food is sold, with the exception of vending machines. They must also make water available to students at all times -- free of charge -- in places where food is sold.
Most of the new rules, which will be monitored by the state Department of Education, will go into effect in the 2012-2013 school year. Schools will have until the 2013 school year to comply with the ban on sugary drinks and make nutrition information available for all "non-prepackaged" foods.
Massachusetts follows about two-dozen states that have established guidelines for foods sold outside school cafeterias.