[Foodplanning] News: Junk Food Corporations Will Try to Provide
Healthier Foods to Schools
vasishth at usc.edu
Sun Oct 8 22:46:11 PDT 2006
Producers Agree to Send Healthier Foods to Schools
Former President Bill Clinton, who announced an agreement with snack producers to put healthier items in school, talked with students at A. Philip Randolph High School in Manhattan after the announcement. Frank Franklin II/Associated Press
By MARIAN BURROS
Published: October 7, 2006
In an effort to fight the rise in childhood obesity, five of the country's largest snack food producers said yesterday they would start providing more nutritious foods to schools, replacing sugary, fat-laden products in vending machines and cafeterias.
French fries, ice cream, candy, cupcakes and potato chips from the machines, lunch lines, school stores and even school fund-raising events could disappear under a voluntary agreement between the companies and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.
The plan, which may take effect at the beginning of the next school year, is the first nationwide effort to set strict nutrition guidelines for school vending machines.
Because the guidelines are voluntary, critics say they will not be effective.
Both the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a frequent critic of the food industry, and the School Nutrition Association want government regulation instead.
"Our organization feels pretty strongly that we need some kind of nutrition guidance from the Department of Agriculture," said Janey Thornton, president of the nutrition association.
Dr. Carlos Camargo, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health was more positive. "I think it's helpful for groups that have traditionally denied any connection between snack foods and obesity or health to be acknowledging now that there are links, and that moves the agenda forward," Dr. Camargo said. A bill introduced in the Senate this year would require the Agriculture Department to set standards for snack foods based on those that the Institute of Medicine is expected to issue by the end of the year.
The agreement will be more difficult to implement than those announced in May between the three largest soft drink companies and the alliance, which is a partnership of the William J. Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association, in which companies agreed to replace sugary soft drinks with more healthful beverages.
The soft drink companies account for 90 percent of soft drinks in schools, which are sold through the company distributors. But there are about 70 snack food companies that supply schools, and those products are sold through independent vendors who are not in the agreement.
That means yesterday's initiative will require the companies to educate vendors on the need for more healthful snacks. At the news conference announcing the new initiative, former President Bill Clinton said: "The companies are going to work to convince distributors and even their competitors to follow suit. I think after today, their competitors are going to have a very difficult time explaining why they won't."
Several company officials agreed.
"The power of this alliance is to get others to join it," said Charles Nicholas, a spokesman for Frito-Lay.
Under the guidelines, products could contain no more than 35 percent sugar by weight and have no more than 230 milligrams of sodium. No trans fats would be allowed. No product could get more than 35 percent of its calories from fat. The guidelines would also set calorie limits for each serving based on age: 150 calories for elementary school children, 180 calories for middle school children and 200 calories for high school students.
The five food manufacturers - Dannon, Kraft Foods, Mars, PepsiCo and the Campbell Soup Company - agreed to make specific changes in what they sell to schools. They are the following:
Mars has created a new line of nutritious snacks.
Frito-Lay, a unit of PepsiCo, is reformulating several products to meet the guidelines.
Kraft is decreasing the sodium and calories in products it sells for school vending machines.
Campbell is promoting soups that are lower in calories, fat and sodium, and offering additional products with less sodium.
Dannon is reducing the sugar content of its Danimals drinkable yogurt by 25 percent.
Some states and school districts already have strict limits on food sold outside the government-regulated school lunch and breakfast programs. But the Center for Science in the Public Interest in a survey of states found that two-thirds of them had either extremely weak policies on snack foods or no policy at all.
Dr. Thomas Robinson, associate professor of pediatrics at the Stanford School of Medicine and director of the Center for Healthy Weight at the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, takes the long view: "This problem is similar to what happened to tobacco over the last several decades; things happened incrementally," Dr. Robinson said.
Mr. Clinton reminded his audience that problems of this magnitude aren't solved in a day.
"We didn't get in this fix overnight, and we won't get out of it overnight," he said.
Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company
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