In a push to promote whole grains, guidelines proposed by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) for school nutrition programs will phase enriched wheat out of school cafeterias completely. Although the change may be rooted in good intentions, Judi Adams, president of the Grain Foods Foundation, said she thinks the move goes too far.

“These new proposals do not comply with USDA’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” Ms. Adams said. “This proposal states that in two years, all grain products served in schools will be whole-grain-rich, but the dietary guidelines say that half your grains should be whole grains and the rest can be enriched grains.”

Despite all the nutrients present, whole grains have only half as much folic acid as do enriched grains. While folic acid prevents neural tube birth defects, for it to be effective, a woman needs to be consuming folic acid before she becomes pregnant.

“Whether we like it or not, these high school young women are of child-bearing age and need to be getting folic acid in their diets for if and when they become pregnant,” Ms. Adams said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledged that enriched grains have decreased neural tube birth defects since 1998 when they were first fortified with folic acid. Ms. Adams said she and other members of the grain industry hope USDA considers this fact as it revises its school nutrition proposal.