An industry association is calling for frozen foods to be recognized in official government child nutrition programs, highlighting the importance of a varied and healthy diet.
The American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) is encouraging Congress and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to ensure frozen fruits and vegetables get an equal footing along with raw products in its nutrition programs.
It is also urging them to consider the wide variety of other frozen products, such as processed foods, that it said should continue to be allowed.
The move follows efforts by regulators to tackle child obesity rates and poor nutrition in the US with schemes that set nutrition guidelines, which have an impact on food manufacturers.
Some food and beverage companies are already taking the initiative to help improve nutrition with self regulation of junk food advertising to children and efforts to provide lower-calorie and smaller-portion options in school vending machines.
Now the AFFI has submitted its comments to the Child Nutrition Division of the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) urging the inclusion of frozen products in the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Programs and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
Robert L Garfield, AFFI interim president, said: “School children and participants in the WIC program can benefit from learning that good nutrition can be achieved by consuming a wide variety of foods.
“AFFI’s member companies are hopeful that Congress and the agency will recognize the innovation that has taken place within our industry and the value of frozen products as part of a healthy lifestyle.”
The association said that the frozen food processing industry has made tremendous advancements in recent years to improve the health and safety attributes of its products, which continue to be affordable, high-quality options for consumers and foodservice operators.
It highlighted the convenience, value, safety and nutritional benefits of these foods to “efficiently and effectively meet the needs of both nutrition program operators and beneficiaries”.
The frozen food manufacturing industry in the US was worth about $24.8bn in 2007.
AFFI said that convenience continues to be the key driver in the frozen food category but consumers want more. This has led to renewed emphasis on quality and variety with products such as ethnic entrees and natural or organic foods which offer a “functional” benefit, such as gluten-free or dairy-free.
IRI said information gathered from multiple sources, including the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shows that 21 percent of US children aged 6 to 17 are currently identified as overweight. By 2020 that number is projected to jump to nearly one third of all US children.
US Department of Agriculture administers four major domestic food assistance programs serving the nutritional needs of children; the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program and the Summer Food Service Program.
In order to receive cash subsidies and donated commodities from the USDA for each meal they serve, schools must serve lunches that meet Federal requirements and nutritional standards.
The aim is to provide a nutritional safety net for children and it accounts for one-quarter of USDA's domestic food and nutrition assistance outlays.
The AFFI promotes and represents the interests of all segments of the frozen food industry in the US.