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Congress: Tomato paste is a vegetable

Monique Lane
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Congress: Tomato paste is a vegetable

President Obama's administration is facing some strong objections from Congress as well as food producers in the US after an attempt to make school lunches healthier.

A proposal released earlier this year by the Department of Agriculture has been supported by the US government in a bid to curb the US national obesity crisis. The department has suggested making school lunches healthier by limiting the amount of pizza and potatoes available and introducing more wholegrains and vegetables into the kids lunches.

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The proposal has been met with criticism and strong objections from Congress who have released a spending bill which proposes significant changes to the healthy lunch program. Proposed changes include counting two tablespoons of tomato paste as a vegetable and not limiting the number of potatoes and other starchy vegetables in daily lunch servings as many schools serve pizza and fries daily.

US food companies such as the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) have supported these proposed changes, which broaden definitions and make it harder to regulate ingredients. AFFI president Kraig Naasz wants recognition of "the significant amounts of potassium, fibre and vitamins A and C provided by tomato paste, ensuring that students may continue to enjoy healthy meals such as pizza and pasta."

In response Amy Dawson Taggart, director of a group called Mission who support the healthy school lunch program says "we are outraged that Congress is seriously considering language that would effectively categorize pizza as a vegetable in the school lunch program, it doesn't take an advanced degree in nutrition to call this a national disgrace."

In Australia 2007-08 National Health Survey results indicate that 24.9 percent of children aged five to 17 years are overweight or obese. In the US approximately 17 percent (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged two to 19 years are obese.

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The US health program was based on 2009 recommendations by the Institute of Medicine, aiming to reduce childhood obesity rates and future health care costs. The spending bill with the proposed changes is being voted on this week by the House and the Senate and will be sent to President Obama.

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