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New school lunch rules could mean more salt, sugar and fat in children's diets

Trump admin. changes school lunch standards

The Trump administration is beginning rollbacks of Obama-era initiatives for healthier school lunches, giving the dairy industry a bigger presence in U.S. cafeterias. That could mean more fat, sugar and salt in children's diets, according to a new in-depth report by Bloomberg Businessweek.

The Obama administration's policies, accompanied by Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" campaign, pushed for more fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, lower sodium levels and fat-free chocolate milk.

The School Nutrition Association, with 58,000 members, at first praised the law, Bloomberg reports. But when it was implemented in 2012, many kids weren't happy with the smaller servings and more health-conscious menus.

One consequence was lower sales of milk between 2011 and 2015. 

"People are drinking a lot less milk. The dairy industry today is really struggling," Lydia Mulvany, a food and agriculture reporter who co-authored the Bloomberg report, told CBSN Friday. "A lot of farmers are not making a profit. Milk prices are really low, so its a hard time for the dairy industry."

But now the Trump administration wants to bring the dairy industry back to the table.  

The dairy industry "says children don't drink as much milk if it's not flavored, and they really like that extra fat, the taste of it," said Mulvany.  

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, who was once a consultant to milk producers, announced early on a relaxation of the rules. Higher-fat chocolate milk was back, along with more white breads and pizza. 

"I wouldn't be as big as I am today without chocolate milk," Perdue told reporters at the time.

Menu revisions began rolling out within months, and the Agriculture Department finalized the rules in December. 

The changes are considered a victory for food companies that count on schools as a steady source of revenue and an opportunity to shape the buying habits of future consumers.

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