Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, the first New Yorker to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee in nearly 40 years and a strong partner with First Lady Michelle Obama working to combat child obesity, today wrote to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack urging him to follow recommendations made by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and remove all artificial trans-fats from school meals.
Senator Gillibrand has been pushing legislation to rid trans-fats from school meals as part of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization now moving forward in the Senate.
“It’s time for this Congress to get serious about the childhood obesity crisis in this country,” Senator Gillibrand said. “Failing our children in the lunchroom leads to their failure in the classroom, and poor health throughout their life. Ridding school meals of deadly trans-fats is a common sense measure to take to improve the health of our children, help them reach their full potential, and protect the next generation of America.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over the last 30 years, obesity among American children ages 6 to 11 has more than doubled – from 6.5 percent to 17 percent. In the same timeframe, obesity among 12 to 19-year-olds has more than tripled – from 5 percent to nearly 18 percent.
Childhood obesity can lead to lower test scores in school and serious health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and depression.
Senator Gillibrand’s comprehensive agenda to end the obesity crisis and improve child nutrition is available here.
Senator Gillibrand’s full letter to Secretary Vilsack is below:
May 10, 2010
The Honorable Tom Vilsack Secretary U.S. Department of Agriculture 1400 Independence Ave., SW Washington, D.C. 20250
Dear Secretary Vilsack,
I am writing to you today to urge you to follow the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation to remove artificial trans fats from school lunches. I am aware that USDA is developing a proposed rule based on IOM recommendations, and I urge USDA to publish a rule to eliminate artificial trans fats from the School Meal Program.
Currently, there are no trans fat guidelines or requirements for the School Meal Programs, and this is harming our children’s health. Many schools still serve foods containing artificially created trans fats, an artery clogging product originally used to extend the shelf life of food, provide texture and decrease cost. The American Heart Association recommends that an individual should have, at most, 2 grams of trans fats a day. Small amounts of trans fats occur naturally in meat and dairy products, so a typical diet leaves virtually no room for artificial trans fats.
Although a person may not get heart disease until they are in their 40s, research by the University of Maryland has shown that kids as young as 8, 9 and 10 already have the high cholesterol and blood fats that clog arteries. The American Heart Association states that Trans Fats cost this country $500 million per year, and the New England Journal of Medicine reports that 6-19% less heart attacks would occur each year if trans fats were banned.
As the numbers of overweight and obese children steadily increase, the time is now for USDA to remove artificial trans fats from school lunches. I look forward to your attention and response to this critical issue.
Kirsten E. Gillibrand
United States Senator