The big news for the last couple of months has been the new food guide and pyramid. And we're not talking about just in the food business; the mainstream consumer media is all over the story too.

Of course, Dairy Foods hasn't missed a beat. Our nutrition contributors Peter Huth and Greg Miller dissect USDA's new infographic ("Nutrition Focus: The New Pyramid"), and tell you what the immediate consequences are for the dairy industry.

But a front page story that appeared in the Chicago Tribune last month sheds some light on something that might have even longer reaching implications for the food industry. It's another reminder that you shouldn't rely on milk's good reputation to keep you in the black.

"USDA Subsidies Ignore Its Own Dietary Advice" the headline read. The crux of the article was that there is a disparity between what USDA says (eat lots of fruit and vegetables) and what it does (subsidizes and protects producers of grains, sugar and milk.)

If the government wants us to eat more apples and broccoli, the article asks, why is it that fruit and vegetable growers don't get any financial assistance? Why does federal money and legislation instead support the guy whose crop gets turned into high fructose corn syrup?

The answer isn't news to you. USDA wears many hats, and sometimes they clash. That answer is right down there in the background of the newspaper article too. And the reporter talked to some of the usual critics of the food regulation system including New York University's Marion Nestle, and former Illinois Senator Peter Fitzgerald, who two years ago tried to have the federal government's nutritional role shifted to the department of health and human services.

Much of this is news to the general public. Some of them vote and many of them buy dairy products. It's said that they are savvier than ever when it comes to nutrition, so they may be more likely to question the new pyramid and guidelines and the system that produced it. So, while USDA's new recommendations are good for dairy, things like innovative formulations and convenient packaging will provide better returns over the long haul.

This issue brings you a new special feature in our Packaging Outlook. When it comes to packaging you've come a long way baby and we take a look at some great examples of innovative dairy packages, and tell you more about what packaging suppliers are offering.

Speaking of packaging-the civil war over school milk packaging continues. One of the top paperboard manufacturers recently issued some promotional material touting the advantages of enhanced paperboard over plastic bottles for school milk. The material cites the results of the St. Louis School Milk Test done by MilkPEP and IDFA. Meanwhile, Dairy Management Inc. continues to promote plastic bottles as the package of choice through its New Look for School Milk program.