Thursday, October 25th, 2012
A spicy flavor of the popular snack food Cheetos called “Flamin’ Hot Cheetos,” is being banned by school districts in three states because, officials say, the snack is too high in calories and fat, and it is too spicy for children to safely eat. From The New York Times:
The chips in question, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, are scarlet-red, exceedingly spicy and enormously popular. Multiple fan pages with thousands of followers have sprung up on Facebook, and a rap video about hot Cheetos – created by children – has nearly 3.5 million views on YouTube.
But some school districts say the chips are too high in calories, salt and fat, and too spicy for most children. Teachers and parents have complained that the artificial coloring has children leaving behind bright red fingerprints in their classrooms and on their clothing. And emergency room doctors say they have seen patients complaining of stomach pain after eating hot Cheetos, and they warn that eating the chips in excess – because of the bright food dye they contain – may cause discolored stool that can lead to unnecessary hospital visits.
In Pasadena, Calif., a principal at an elementary school told the Chicago Tribune, which first reported the story, that the chips would be confiscated from any student who brings them to school. In New Mexico, students at the Lyndon B. Johnson Middle School in Albuquerque were sent home with a letter telling parents not to let their children bring Flamin’ Hot Cheetos to school. The letter said that the snack lacks nutritional value and creates a mess for janitors, and that students eat it instead of a healthy lunch. The letter also noted that the chips are shared among students, spreading germs.
Frito-Lay, the company that makes Cheetos, says it does not market the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos brand specifically to small children, nor does it sell the snacks directly to schools.
Image: Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, via fritolay.com
Friday, March 16th, 2012
Officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture are telling news sources that schools that participate in the national school lunch program will soon have the choice to opt out of ground beef that’s been mixed with ammonia-treated filler and dubbed “pink slime” by food safety and nutrition critics. The Associated Press reports:
Under the change, schools will be able to choose between 95 percent lean beef patties made with the product or less lean bulk ground beef without it. The change won’t kick in immediately because of existing contracts, according to a USDA official with knowledge of the decision.
Though the term “pink slime” has been used pejoratively for at least several years, it wasn’t until last week that social media suddenly exploded with worry and an online petition seeking its ouster from schools. The petition quickly garnered hundreds of thousands of supporters.
The low-cost ingredient is made from fatty bits of meat left over from other cuts. The bits are heated to about 100 F and spun to remove most of the fat. The lean mix then is compressed into blocks for use in ground meat. The product, made by South Dakota-based Beef Products Inc., also is exposed to “a puff of ammonium hydroxide gas” to kill bacteria, such as E. coli and salmonella.
The department said it continues to affirm the safety of the ammonia-treated lean finely textured beef as a filler, but that it wanted to be transparent and that school districts wanted choices.
Some politicians, including Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, are urging the Agriculture department to ban the product altogether. “The beef industry sent my office an email the other day describing pink slime as `wholesome and nutritious’ and said the process for manufacturing it is `similar to separating milk from cream.’ I don’t think a highly processed slurry of meat scraps mixed with ammonia is what most families would think of as `wholesome and nutritious,’” Pingree told the AP in a written statement.
Image: Teens having school lunch, via Shutterstock.
Friday, February 17th, 2012
A North Carolina 4-year-old ate cafeteria chicken nuggets for lunch one day last month because the school told her the lunch her mother packed wasn’t nutritious enough.
The child’s lunchbox contained a turkey and cheese sandwich, a banana, potato chips, and apple juice. The adult who was inspecting lunch boxes in the classroom that day said the meal didn’t meet U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines, so the student was required to purchase the school lunch, the Carolina Journal reports.
The incident raises questions about what constitutes a healthy lunch for kids.
USDA guidelines state that lunches must consist of one serving each of meat, milk and grain, and two servings of fruit or vegetables. North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services requires that lunches served to pre-K kids, even those from home, meet these guidelines. If they don’t, schools must fill in the missing servings.
From the Carolina Journal:
The girl’s mother—who said she wishes to remain anonymous to protect her daughter from retaliation—said she received a note from the school stating that students who did not bring a “healthy lunch” would be offered the missing portions, which could result in a fee from the cafeteria, in her case $1.25.
“I don’t feel that I should pay for a cafeteria lunch when I provide lunch for her from home,” the mother wrote in a complaint to her state representative, Republican G.L. Pridgen of Robeson County.
The girl’s grandmother, who sometimes helps pack her lunch, told Carolina Journal that she is a petite, picky 4-year-old who eats white whole wheat bread and is not big on vegetables.
The preschooler’s mother and grandmother thought the potato chips and lack of vegetable caused the lunch to fall short, but a spokeswoman for the Division of Child Development says the lunch should not have “failed” current guidelines. From Carolina Journal:
“With a turkey sandwich, that covers your protein, your grain, and if it had cheese on it, that’s the dairy,” said Jani Kozlowski, the fiscal and statutory policy manager for the division. “It sounds like the lunch itself would’ve met all of the standard.” The lunch has to include a fruit or vegetable, but not both, she said.
Kozlowski added that this school might need “technical assistance” on lunch rules.
Readers, what would an inspector see if she looked in your kid’s lunch box? What’s your definition of a healthy lunch?
Image: Chicken nuggets via Shutterstock.
Friday, January 27th, 2012
Whole milk and white bread are among the casualties of a set of school lunch changes the USDA announced this week. The infusion of $3.2 billion of federal funding for the National School Lunch Program intends to offer children lunches higher in whole grain, vegetables, and fruits, and lower in fat and sodium. The lunches will also monitor portion sizes in a way that leaders hope will help curb the childhood obesity epidemic that affects an estimated 17 percent of American children and teens. Each lunch will cost a projected 6 cents more than current school lunches.
The changes are meant to appeal to kids’ palates as well as being good for their bodies. According to the projected new menu, oven-baked fish nuggets will replace breaded beef patties; whole wheat spaghetti with meat sauce will replace hot dogs; and bean and cheese burritos will be replaced with turkey submarine sandwiches. Pizza day, a sacred school institution, will survive, but the cheese pizzas will be served on whole wheat crust, accompanied with baked sweet potato fries rather than the tater tots of yore.
The new regulations are the first changes to national school lunch policy in 15 years, the result of the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The changes will begin to be phased in next fall, and will be fully implemented over 3-5 years.
Diane Pratt-Heavner, spokeswoman for the Maryland-based School Nutrition Association, told MSNBC.com she applauds the changes, but encourages parents to participate in the process of encouraging their kids to make healthier food choices. “We all have to work to get the kids to make these healthier choices,” she said. “Students are more apt to pick up a fruit or vegetable in the lunch line if they have been introduced to those foods at home.”
Image: School lunch tray, via Shutterstock.