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House passes bill that rejects school nutrition standards

by Joan Murphy | June 22, 2011

WASHINGTON -- A government spending bill (H.R. 2112) that would gut the U.S. Department of Agriculture's school nutrition standards and remove funding for the Microbiological Data Program passed the House of Representatives the week of June 13. The Senate has yet to take up the spending bill.

The bill, which funds the USDA and the Food & Drug Administration starting Oct. 1, passed the House June 16 by a 217-203 vote. It also would cut $685 million from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants & Children, known as the WIC program, and reduce funding for FDA's food safety program.

"As the Congress continues the battle to lower spending, cut waste and create jobs, this bill represents a reduction of 13.4 percent in discretionary funding and makes the tough choices necessary to reduce spending while keeping our bill's basic missions of food production, food and drug safety, rural development and nutrition programs intact," Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, said after the bill passed.

Under the bill, USDA would have to rewrite its new school lunch nutrition standards, a proposal that would have increased fruit and vegetable servings and align government-supported school meals with the latest Dietary Guidelines.

An amendment offered by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), which also passed the House, would prohibit USDA from using funds to implement the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative. Top USDA officials have touted the program as an opportunity to better connect consumers to local farmers and ranchers.

But the bill also eliminated funding for the Agricultural Marketing Service's Microbiological Data Program, which authorizes states to sample certain fruits and vegetables for pathogens and which has resulted in recalls. Rep. Hansen Clark (D-MI) offered an amendment, which was defeated, that would have restored partial funding for the program.

Pointing to the E. coli outbreak in Germany that has implicated sprouts, Rep. Clark said that this was not the time to kill a testing program for select fruits and vegetables. The amendment failed by a 282-142 vote.