WASHINGTON – Dried blueberries, tart cherries and cranberries, fruits that feature added sweeteners for processing or palatability, are eligible for inclusion on school lunch and breakfast menus following the publication of an interim final rule in the Federal Register on June 28.

Under the new rules, a food eligible for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National School Lunch program must have 35% or less of the weight of the food come from total sugars. In order to qualify, dried fruits with added nutritive sweeteners needed to receive an exemption. Dried fruits and vegetables with no added sweeteners also were exempted under the rule.

“U.S.D.A. supports an additional limited exemption for dried fruit with added nutritive sweeteners only when the added sweeteners are required for processing and/or palatability of the product, such as dried cranberries, tart cherries and blueberries,” according to the text of the interim final rule. “The portion sizes of these dried fruits would be limited by the calorie standards.

“The department, however, does not agree that processed fruit and vegetable snacks should be included under either dried fruit exemption. Since these snack type products are not whole dried fruit pieces, the fruit concentrate (added sugar) used to make these products is often the primary ingredient. These products could still qualify without the exemption as a competitive food if they meet all of the standards, including a fruit or vegetable as the first ingredient.”