WASHINGTON — The American Bakers Association said it “strongly supports” efforts by First Lady Michelle Obama and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to achieve more nutritious and healthful school meals — especially through increased availability of healthy grain foods — but noted the new nutrition standards do not follow the recommendations set forth in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010.
Two years post-implementation, all grains offered during the school week must be “whole grain-rich,” according to the new standards. This compares with the recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines, which encourage Americans to make half of their daily grain servings whole grains.
“We fully support increasing consumption of whole grains among school children,” said Robb MacKie, president and chief executive officer of the A.B.A. “However, we feel it is important to remember that enriched grains have important health benefits as well.”
Lee Sanders, senior vice-president of the A.B.A., said those benefits include serving as an important source of antioxidants, fiber, B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium and iron.
“In both their whole and enriched forms, they provide fuel the body needs to meet its energetic and cognitive needs,” Ms. Sanders said. “This obviously makes them extremely critical for school-aged children.”
Mr. MacKie also expressed concern with the lack of a universal definition of what constitutes a “whole grain.” In the final standards the U.S.D.A. defines “whole grain-rich” as those foods containing at least 51% whole grains, but Mr. MacKie said school administrators and manufacturers are likely to struggle with knowing what products comply and how they should be labeled.
“While the new standards do provide some additional guidance in this area, we continue to urge U.S.D.A. and F.D.A. to work together to set policy establishing a consistent definition of the term ‘whole grain’ as soon as possible,” he said.