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Massachusetts’ new school-nutrition standards significantly improve the regulation of competitive foods, report says

Northeastern University Associate Professor of Psychology Jessica Hoffman examined Massachusetts's compliance with its school nutrition standards that were implemented in 2014. In 2012, the state raised its standards for school food and the changes took effect last year. One year later, Hoffman found in her recent study that the measure has led to significant improvements in regulating competitive foods and beverages.

Competitive foods and beverages, according to Jace Harr of Education News, are those found in school stores, fundraisers, and vending machines that compete with school meals. Prior to the standards' implementation, 13 percent of foods at middle schools met the standards.

The percentage went up to 69 percent a year later. Beverage compliance, in addition, spiked from 28 to 80 percent.

"For decades, competitive foods have not been regulated at the national level, so states have taken it upon themselves to do something," Hoffman said. "These standards that were put in place in Massachusetts were really exciting because at the time they were some of the strictest standards in the whole country."

Researchers said this study suggests that other states can implement similar school nutrition quality standards, according to Education News.

"It's easier to make the changes in beverages because categorically things are compliant or not compliant," Hoffman said. "For example, the sugar-sweetened beverages are easy to recognize and eliminate."

The nutrition standards only allow fruits and vegetables, and low-fat or non-fat milk. Artificial sweeteners, fried food, trans fats, caffeine, and white bread are banned, while sodium, fat, and sugar are restricted.

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