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U.S. Agriculture Department sued over relaxation of school nutrition rules

April 5, 2019
6 states and Washington D.C. contend that the changes made by the Trump administration have weakened nutritional standards and were arbitrary and capricious.

Six states and the District of Columbia contend in a lawsuit that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has weakened nutritional standards in school breakfasts and lunches by relaxing the requirements affecting salt and refined grains.

The Associated Press reports that the suit argues that the changes were carried out in an arbitrary and capricious manner.

It says the government “significantly weakened” nutritional standards for sodium and whole grains without giving the public a chance to comment on them and in opposition to nutritional requirements for school meals set by Congress.

The states say the standards should be based on recommendations of the U.S. government’s “Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” the National Academy of Sciences and scientific research regarding children’s nutrition.

The school lunch program provides low-cost or free lunches and breakfasts in public schools and other institutions. Last year, it served about 30 million children.

New York Attorney General Letitia James is leading the multistate civil legal action.

“The Trump Administration has undermined key health benefits for our children — standards for salt and whole grains in school meals — with deliberate disregard for science, expert opinion, and the law,” she says.

The other plaintiffs are California, Illinois, Minnesota, New Mexico, Vermont and the District of Columbia.

The lawsuit was filed after the Trump administration scaled back contested school lunch standards put into place under the Obama administration, including one requiring that only whole grains be served.

The changes made by the Trump administration also permitted low-fat chocolate milk to be served again where only fat-free milk had been permitted to be flavored.

The department has said 20% of schools last year applied for exemptions to the whole-grain rule, most frequently so they could serve pasta, tortillas, biscuits and grits.

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