Next fall, the Biden administration will propose new nutrition standards for school meals, the the first attempt to strengthen the rules since 2012. Health advocates are already starting to make their wish lists known—further lowering sodium, making meals more nutritious and, for the first time ever, capping the amount of added sugar in food served to students. (No paywall)
School nutrition standards haven’t been updated since 2010, when the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act — former First Lady Michelle Obama’s overhaul of school nutrition standards that mandated more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and reduced sodium — was passed. As Congress moves forward with a long-overdue Child Nutrition Reauthorization, lawmakers and advocates are sparring over what changes, if any, should be made to the food kids eat at school.(No paywall)
In a Federal Register notice today, the USDA announced it will extend its “three flexibilities” for school menus — salt, whole grains, and flavored milk — into the 2018/19 school year. It will also invite comment on the “long-term availability of the flexibilities,” which Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue introduced at an elementary school on his sixth day in office.
School districts serving Philadelphia, Baltimore and Las Vegas joined the Urban School Food Alliance, which now serves 3.6 million students in 10 of the largest U.S. districts with a combined $735 million a year in purchases of food and supplies. The alliance launched a procurement initiative in 2014 for antibiotic-free chicken, and said this year that its members would not relax school lunch standards despite a USDA offer of flexibility on salt and whole grains.
A year ago, Washington D.C.’s Capital Area Food Bank — one of the largest food banks in the country — decided to turn away junk food, joining a growing trend of food banks who are trying to offer healthier options to low-income Americans. From soda to chips, the CAFB has reduced the junk food it supplies to its 444 nonprofit partners, including soup kitchens and food pantries, by 84 percent.
When the 2017/18 school year opens in late summer, public schools will not have to use more whole grains and less salt in their cafeteria meals unless they want to, and they will be allowed to sell 1 percent flavored milk, said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. Although he said he was giving schools more flexibility, consumer groups and lawmakers said Perdue was rolling back school-lunch reforms launched under an Obama-era initiative against child obesity.
A long-running study "reports that lowering sodium intake doesn't reduce blood pressure," says the San Diego Tribune. The results are contrary to long-accepted medical advice and suggest that most Americans consume healthy amounts of salt, the most common form of sodium.
A state appeals court upheld New York City's requirement for chain restaurants to alert diners to foods that contain more than the recommended daily dose of salt, about one teaspoonful, said The Associated Press. The National Restaurant Association said it was considering its next move on the regulation.
President-elect Donald Trump attacked over-regulation by the government during his campaign, so "big questions have arisen over how far he'll go," said Civil Eats, which spoke to food-policy activists about the outlook. With Republicans in control of Congress, the budgets of the EPA and the FDA could come under attack, but it would be very difficult to eliminate an agency like EPA, said food-safety advocates.
The FDA called on foodmakers and restaurateurs to reduce sharply the amount of salt in their products to help Americans avoid high blood pressure and the risk of chronic illness. The food industry balked, saying it already has low-salt products on sale and that the science on healthy salt levels was not as clear as the government says.
The House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees USDA and FDA is writing its own guarantee of a gradual transition to calorie counts on menus a restaurants, carry-outs, stores and fast-food stands. It included a rider, Section 735, in its USDA-FDA funding bill saying enforcement cannot occur until a year after Dec. 1, 2016, or a year after the FDA issues the final rule on menu labels.
The Obama administration will propose voluntary levels on sodium in processed foods as early as this summer, in "one of its last fights with Big Food," says Politico, citing current and former administration officials.
The National Restaurant Association plans to sue New York City's health department to block a requirement that restaurant chains put warning symbols on their menus to alert customers to foods that contain high amounts of salt, reports Capital New York.
Congress would relax rules that call for schools to use more whole grains and to reduce salt in meals provided to students, according to provisions of a government-wide funding bill. Unveiled on Tuesday night, the bill also calls for USDA to study the nutritional content of vegetables available in the so-called WIC program before removing any of them from the program - a response to complaints that white potatoes were being singled out unfairly.
Forget about super-sizing. Portion size at three major fast-food chains changed little from 1996-2013, say researchers at Tufts. In a pair of reports, they say sodium, fat and calorie totals "stayed relatively constant albeit at high levels," according to a Tufts release.
More than 90 percent of U.S. children eat far more salt than recommended by the government, putting them at risk for developing high blood pressure and heart disease later in life, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In a Vital Signs report, CDC researchers said that 43 percent of the sodium comes from the 10 foods most commonly eaten by children: pizza, bread and rolls, cold cuts/cured meats, savory snacks, sandwiches, cheese, chicken patties/nuggets/tenders, pasta mixed dishes, Mexican mixed dishes, and soups.