School junk food standards finalized

Phoenix – Those final rules still will bar the sale of things like candy bars, potato chips and sugared sodas. But a committee appointed by state School Superintendent Tom Horne said the proposal to sell only fat-free and one percent milk was unnecessarily harsh and potentially would work against student health. That's because many youngsters don't like the taste of those products. So Horne agreed to allow the sale of 2 percent milk.

(My personal preference would have been to make it 1 percent milk. But I decided I should respect the process that was set up. And the stakeholders unanimously decided we should use 2 percent milk. So we did.)

That panel of stakeholders, including a aprent, a food service director, a pediatrician and even some representatives of the vending industry, also made some other changes. For example, they also agreed to allow flavored milk as long as it has only limited amounts of sugar. And they said entree items served at lunch can have up to 400 calories apiece rather than the original 300-calorie limit. One thing that won't be allowed are sugar-free sodas. That's because Attorney General Terry Goddard pointed out that the state law directing the Department of Education to craft junk food standards specifically said any items served have to comply with federal nutritional guidelines. And those federal guidelines do not permit most carbonated beverages. The new rules, which take effect next school year, do not end the debate. Horne and state Rep. Mark Anderson want to extend the junk food ban into high schools. But that part of the plan was beaten back last legislative session, at least in part because of stiff opposition from the companies that bottle and sell sodas on high school campuses. Anderson said he might be willing to cut a deal -- allow the sale of at least sugar-free sodas on high school campuses in exchange for the soda makers dropping their opposition to other restrictions.

(I'm open to certainly dialog and discussion about if the high school standards should be a little different than the grade school and middle school standards. I certainly am open to anybody who has good ideas on that. There is a difference between high school kids and elementary kids.)

But Anderson, who already has crafted legislation to expand the sales restrictions to high schools, said he has not yet had any discussion with industry representatives about a compromise. In Phoenix, for Arizona Public Radio this is Howard Fischer.