Congress also refused to allow the USDA to limit servings of potatoes. Those congressional directions must be incorporated into the final rule, the AP reported.
The news service said that potato growers, companies that make frozen pizzas for schools and others in the food industry lobbied for the changes made by Congress, and that conservatives said the government shouldn’t be telling children what to eat.
Some school districts objected to some of the requirements, saying they went too far and would cost too much, the AP said.
Katz said, “It is unacceptable that food industry elements lobbied Congress successfully for changes in nutrition standards that placed profits ahead of children’s health.
“The argument that we cannot afford to do even better is spurious, because it leaves us needing to afford the treatment of type 2 diabetes in children. It leaves us needing to pay for bariatric surgery in adolescents,” he added.
Still, the changes signal some progress, Katz said. “We should not expect it to change childhood obesity rates. School lunch was never the cause of epidemic obesity, and improving it will not be the cure. But school lunch has long been part of the problem and these improved standards will help make it one part of a comprehensive solution, now long overdue,” he said.
Heller rejected the argument that children will not eat healthier foods.
“When given the time, exposure and encouragement as well as altering environmental influences, kids will eat healthy foods when available,” she said. “Just putting fresh fruit by the cafeteria check-out in schools increases consumption by schoolchildren considerably. Making fresh, healthy foods delicious and explaining to kids how and why good nutrition is critical for them to do well in their favorite activities such as sports, art or science, will also boost consumption,” Heller said.
“Food companies, lobbyists, and members of Congress would do well to step up to the plate and start setting good examples of healthy eating and lifestyles,” Heller added.
The new rule is based on recommendations from a panel of experts from the Institute of Medicine and also updated changes from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.