Industry expresses support for nutrition act

by Keith Nunes
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WASHINGTON – Many segments of the food and beverage industry have come out in support of legislation to improve the health and nutrition of products sold in the nation’s schools and through other nutrition programs. The legislation has been proposed by U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. She unveiled the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 on March 17.

The bill, which would provide $4.5 billion in new child nutrition program funding over 10 years, would mark the largest investment ever made in federal child nutrition programs. Previously, the highest increase was $500 million over 10 years.

“The Grocery Manufacturers Association strongly supports efforts to feed many more children through school lunch and breakfast programs and to increase the number of healthy choices in the cafeteria,” said Scott Faber, vice-president of federal affairs for the Grocery Manufacturers Association. “We share Senator Lincoln's priorities for a stronger Child Nutrition Act, including increased access to the school meals programs, science-based standards for foods sold in schools, more healthy foods available in the cafeteria, and more education about healthy diets.

“In particular, we believe that Congress should give U.S.D.A. clear authority to set science-based standards for foods sold in schools during the school day. The school environment is a special environment, and U.S.D.A. should be given the power to establish nutrition standards for competitive foods. We believe that the school cafeteria line can be on the front lines of feeding children while ending childhood obesity within a generation. We look forward to working with Senator Lincoln on these provisions.”

The American Beverage Association echoed many of the sentiments expressed by the G.M.A.

“As parents and grandparents, we recognize that schools are special places," said Susan Neely, president and chief executive officer of the A.B.A. “Industry has spent the past several years removing full-calorie soft drinks from schools across America and replacing them with lower-calorie, smaller-portion beverages. We believe this standard, which is already implemented and working, provides a strong cornerstone for developing a new federal nutrition standard for all foods and beverages sold in schools.”

Hank Izzo, vice-president of research and development for Mars Chocolate, US, McLean, Va., said, “Mars believes that schools are a unique environment, and we strongly support a new national school nutrition standard that will ensure children have access to high quality nutritious snacks at school.”

Specifically, the company supports new standards that are consistent with the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans, published under the National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act, as well as other authoritative sources such as scientific recommendations, state and local standards and other voluntary standards that have been developed as best practices.
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