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Cheese Substitutes

Nutrition Services Division Management Bulletin

To: All Public and Private Schools Participating in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, County Superintendents of Schools, Diocesan Superintendents of Schools

Number: 97-102

Attention: Food Service Directors

Date: January 1997

From: School Nutrition Programs

Subject: Cheese Substitutes

Reference: 7 CFR Part 210, Appendix A – Alternate for Meals Supersedes Management Bulletins: 94-115, 93-109, 93-106, 92-117, SNP R91-010, 90-145

This Management Bulletin transmits information from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) on the elimination of specifications governing the use of "Cheese Alternate Products" in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). Cheese substitutes (also known as cheese alternates) may now be used in the NSLP if they are consistent with existing standards of identity as contained in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules. Imitation cheese continues to be an unacceptable substitute.

Cheese alternates were originally used in the NSLP as a less expensive yet nutritious means of providing additional cheese-type products. By including specifications in the regulations governing the use of cheese alternates, USDA ensured that the nutritional requirements of the Program would be met.

After publishing the initial cheese alternate requirements in 1974, the FDA added substitute and imitation products to its Food Labeling regulations. The regulations state that in order for a product to be labeled a substitute, under FDA regulations, it cannot be nutritionally inferior to the food for which it substitutes. Because cheese substitutes are not nutritionally inferior to the cheese for which they substitute, USDA is adding cheese substitutes to the Food Buying Guide with a 1:1 credit.

However, imitation cheese continues to be an unacceptable substitute, and any product labeled as an imitation may not receive credit towards the meal pattern requirement. The change in the crediting and use of cheese alternates includes the use of cheese food substitutes and cheese spread substitutes, which are consistent with FDA regulations. This allows for fat and calorie reductions. In addition, it is consistent with the on-going efforts to promote school meals that meet the Dietary Guidelines.

One exception to the above regulation is the use of Land O'Lakes 50 Percent Reduced Fat Pasteurized Process Yellow American Cheese Product. Although this product does not meet FDA standards of identity for cheeses, cheese food, and cheese spread, the Food and Consumer Service of the USDA has determined that it can be credited toward meal pattern requirements on an ounce per ounce basis. USDA's notice of determination is attached.

NOTE: All Management Bulletins on Cheese Alternate Products written and distributed to sponsors of the National School Lunch and School Breakfast prior to November 1996 are to be disregarded.

Attachment available in hard copy only.

Questions:   Nutrition Services Division | 800-952-5609
Last Reviewed: Monday, February 8, 2016
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