Formulated Grain-Fruit Products:

Proposed Restrictions on Use in School Breakfast Program Should Be Reevaluated

CED-79-12: Published: Dec 26, 1978. Publicly Released: Dec 26, 1978.

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The Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposed to prohibit using the two-component meal of formulated grain-fruit products (fortified pastries) and milk in the school breakfast program. Although grain-fruit products are not used widely or frequently, some schools find them to be popular, convenient, and less costly. The controversy over the proposal to withdraw authorization of the two-component breakfast centered on whether a breakfast of milk and a formulated grain-fruit product may be served to children in place of a three-component conventional breakfast of bread or cereal, fruit or juice or vegetables, and milk. In 1974, USDA authorized schools to use the two-component breakfast in which the formulated product replaces both the bread/cereal and fruit/juice/vegetable components. It was decided this would: (1) encourage more schools to enter the program, (2) provide a convenient, less costly breakfast, (3) add variety to school breakfasts, and (4) help eliminate plate-waste. USDA wants to ban the two-component breakfast because many nutritionists believe it has too much sugar and fat, may lack trace elements and other unknown nutrients, and may teach poor eating habits.

Little knowledge exists about most of the issues raised in connection with the USDA proposal. The sugar and fat levels in the two-component breakfast are as low as or lower than those in several other breakfasts whose approval would be continued. In contrast to the uncertainty surrounding the complaints about certain nutritional aspects of grain-fruit products, it is firmly established that under today's standards these products contain ample quantities of many nutrients long recognized as being important for good health. Furthermore, no studies exist which show that serving the two-component breakfast might teach children that pastries are acceptable breakfast foods and that this idea might carry over into adulthood. It also seems that a well-planned nutrition education program could specifically teach children that fortified products, such as grain-fruit products, are different from unfortified ones and that they have certain benefits and limitations when compared with other types of breakfast. Adequacy of cooking and serving facilities is not a significant issue. Both two-component and three-component meals require only refrigeration and a place for the children to eat. Conclusive proof is difficult to obtain and many questions are unanswered in the nutrition field.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: Because of the uncertainties involved in the issues surrounding grain-fruit products and because some schools find the two-component breakfast to be popular, convenient, and a less costly alternative to conventional breakfast patterns, USDA should carefully evaluate and consider the following alternatives to banning the two-component breakfast: (1) require that grain-fruit products be made with whole grains; (2) revise the products' specifications to require less sugar and fat; and (3) limit the frequency with which the two-component breakfast may be served. In addition, USDA should take the lead in getting any needed research performed on possible child nutrition problems related to fat, sugar, fiber, and trace elements. Research findings should be used as a basis for revising child nutrition program requirements, but instead of singling out one specific product, standards and requirements should be developed and applied broadly to the foods used in school feeding programs.

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