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Originally published June 30 2008

U.S. Lawmakers Consider Sweeping Effort to Banish Junk Foods From Public Schools

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) An amendment to the farm bill, currently being considered by the Senate, would enact a widespread ban on the sale of junk food to children on school grounds.

Under the new rules, developed with intense involvement from the American Beverage Association and other drink and food manufacturers, strict limits would be placed on what foods may be sold on school campuses from vending machines, snack bars and cafeteria a la carte lines.

In elementary schools, the only beverages allowed for sale would be plain bottled water, eight-ounce fruit juices or low-fat milk with up to 170 calories per serving. The milk could be flavored. Foods would have to contain 35 percent sugar or less and be low in trans and saturated fats and sodium. Snack foods could contain no more than 180 calories per serving.

In high schools, the same standards would apply, but snack foods could contain up to 200 calories per serving. In addition, high school students could purchase diet sodas and sports drinks, and any other drink with up to 66 calories per eight-ounce serving. After five years, other drinks would be limited to 25 calories per serving.

Occasional fund-raising projects such as Girl Scout cookie sales would be exempt from the new rules. The rules would not affect regular cafeteria food, which is already subject to stronger nutritional standards.

Individual states would be barred from passing stricter regulations, although individual school districts would be allowed to do so.

It is this last factor, along with the involvement of the food and beverage industry, that has driven some to say that the new rules do not go far enough, and will make it difficult to impose stricter standards in the future.

"It's crazy to think we are going to fix children's health just by letting companies sell schoolchildren smaller portions of Gatorade and baked chips," said Susan Rubin, nutritionist and the founder of Better School Food.

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