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Posted at 6:30 AM ET, 11/20/2009

The (somewhat strange) List: Foods banned by law in school cafeterias

By Valerie Strauss

When I think about the “foods of minimal nutritional value” that are banned from public school cafeterias by federal law, the first thing that pops into my mind is a doughnut, one made delicious by hideous amounts of fat and sugar.

But when I was researching school nutrition on the Agriculture Department's website, I came across the list and discovered doughnuts aren’t on it.

Soda water is, though. So are cough drops.

Here’s the list and a brief e-mail exchange I had with a department spokesperson about the logic behind the list.

THE BANNED FOODS LIST:

(1) SODA WATER--A class of beverages made by absorbing carbon dioxide in potable water. The amount of carbon dioxide used is not less than that which will be absorbed by the beverage at a pressure of one atmosphere and at a temperature of 60 deg. F. It either contains no alcohol or only such alcohol, not in excess of 0.5 percent by weight of the finished beverage, as is contributed by the flavoring ingredient used. No product shall be excluded from this definition because it contains artificial sweeteners or discrete nutrients added to the food such as vitamins, minerals and protein.

(2) WATER ICES--As defined by 21 CFR 135.160 Food and Drug Administration Regulations except that water ices which contain fruit or fruit juices are not included in this definition.

(3) CHEWING GUM-Flavored products from natural or synthetic gums and other ingredients which form an insoluble mass for chewing.

(4) CERTAIN CANDIES--Processed foods made predominantly from sweeteners or artificial sweeteners with a variety of minor ingredients which characterize the following types:

(i) HARD CANDY--A product made predominantly from sugar (sucrose) and corn syrup which may be flavored and colored, is characterized by a hard, brittle texture, and includes such items as sour balls, fruit balls, candy sticks, lollipops, starlight mints, after dinner mints, sugar wafers, rock candy, cinnamon candies, breath mints, jaw breakers and cough drops.

(ii) JELLIES AND GUMS--A mixture of carbohydrates which are combined to form a stable gelatinous system of jelly-like character, and are generally flavored and colored, and include gum drops, jelly beans, jellied and fruit-flavored slices.

(iii) MARSHMALLOW CANDIES--An aerated confection composed as sugar, corn syrup, invert sugar, 20 percent water and gelatin or egg white to which flavors and colors may be added.

(iv) FONDANT--A product consisting of microscopic-sized sugar crystals which are separated by thin film of sugar and/or invert sugar in solution such as candy corn, soft mints.

(v) LICORICE--A product made predominantly from sugar and corn syrup which is flavored with an extract made from the licorice root.

(vi) SPUN CANDY--A product that is made from sugar that has been boiled at high temperature and spun at a high speed in a special machine.

(vii) CANDY COATED POPCORN--Popcorn which is coated with a mixture made predominantly from sugar and corn syrup.


I sent an e-mail to the Agriculture Department asking for an explanation:

Q) Is the list on the Ag Dept. website of foods with marginal nutritional value the only foods that are barred by federal law from being sold/served in a school cafeteria? Why aren’t things like doughnuts on the list?

A) (Sent by Food and Nutrition Service spokeswoman Susan Acker):
"While there are requirements for the school meal and limitations on competitive foods in general, the only foods barred from being sold in the foodservice area during the meal period are foods of minimal nutritional value as defined in the National School Lunch Program (7 CFR 210, Section 210.11) and School Breakfast Program (7 CFR 220, Section 220.12).

There are four categories of foods that are defined as FMNV: soda water, water ice, chewing gum and certain candies. FMNV are foods that provide less than five percent of the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) for each of eight specified nutrients (protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, calcium and iron) per serving and per 100 calories and fall into one of the four categories.

State agencies and school food authorities have the ability to restrict sales of competitive foods further."

I STILL wondered why doughnuts weren’t on the list, so I looked at the Dunkin’ Donuts website to review its product nutrition guide.

A glazed cake donut has 320 calories--half of them from fat.

That fat is actually 18 grams (the daily recommended adult amount by the Agriculture Department is 65 grams).

Saturated fat--8 grams(daily recommended amount, 17 grams)

Sodium--310 mg (daily recommended amount, 1,179 grams)

Protein-3 grams (daily recommended amount, 91 grams

Vitamin A-- 0 grams

Vitamin C-- 0 grams

Calcium--2 percent of the daily recommended value

Iron--6 percent of daily recommended value

NOT AS BAD AS I THOUGHT!

By Valerie Strauss  | November 20, 2009; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  Health  | Tags:  school nutrition  
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