Foodmakers support giving FDA power to regulate school food
A group representing companies including Kraft Foods Inc. and Dominick's parent Safeway Inc. is supporting a bill that would give the U.S. Department of Agriculture more power to regulate food sold on school campuses.
Healthier meals and "science-based" rules on what should be sold in school stores and vending machines are goals common to government and industry, Scott Faber, the vice president for federal affairs with the Grocery Manufacturers Association, said today in a statement released at a news conference in Washington. Along with Kraft and Safeway, the group also represents PepsiCo Inc. and Dean Foods Co.
The association is throwing its support behind legislation introduced yesterday by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln, which would give the USDA authority to set nutrition standards for all items sold in schools, including products sold in vending machines. The department currently regulates school meals.
"The school environment is a special environment," Faber said in the statement. "We believe that Congress should give USDA clear authority to set science-based standards for foods sold in schools during the school day."
Lincoln, a Democrat from Arkansas, also wants to add $450 million to the roughly $17 billion now spent annually on child nutrition. The money is used to provide lunches to more than 30.5 million schoolchildren and breakfasts to about 10.6 million each day.
"Less nutritious options will be reduced" in schools, Lincoln said at the news conference, without being more specific. Also attending were representatives of Pepsi and Coca- Cola Co. and Senate Health Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat.
First Lady Michelle Obama is leading a campaign to encourage children to be more active and make healthy food more affordable. President Barack Obama called for a $1 billion-a- year boost in spending on child nutrition initiatives in the budget he submitted to Congress last month. Such programs, which are administered by the USDA, have been operating under temporary authorizations since Sept. 30, when the legislation governing them expired.
About 17 percent of children ages 6 to 11 in the U.S. were obese in a study conducted from 2003 to 2006, up from 6.5 percent 30 years ago, the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in January.