McCain joins industry move to improve child nutrition

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition

A nationwide effort to improve child nutrition received a further
boost with the announcement that another major food firm has
pledged to align its product development and marketing efforts with
the guidelines set out by the initiative.

Leading global frozen food manufacturer McCain has joined the string of big players, such as Kraft, PepsiCo and Dannon, in their support of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. Set up in 2005, the alliance aims to encourage schools to establish certain nutritional and physical education standards in schools. It was created as a joint initiative by former President Bill Clinton and the American Heart Association. According to McCain chief executive officer Frank van Schaayk, "producing healthier products is good for people and good for business." "The Alliance for a Healthier Generation is breaking new ground as a catalyst for ensuring healthier choices for children, and we are eager to support their efforts."​The Alliance for a Healthier Generation said its science-based nutritional guidelines promote nutrient-rich foods and fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and place limits on calories, fat, saturated fat, trans fat, sugar and sodium. Developed in conjunction with nutrition experts at the American Heart Association, the guidelines apply to foods that are not part of the National School Lunch Program and that are offered for sale to students before, during and after the school day through school vending machines, ala carte lines, school stores, snack carts and fundraisers. McCain, which supplies school foodservice operations, said it will lead its sales to schools with those products that meet the alliance's competitive food guidelines. It is also conducting additional product development to increase the list of qualifying school items. The firm will reformulate at least five new products in the next 24 months to expand its line of items geared toward a balanced lifestyle. In addition, McCain said it will work with Alliance for a Healthier Generation and its industry partners to explore comprehensive pilot programs with schools, testing students' ideas on healthier snacks. "Making gains in child nutrition must involve industry, schools and advocates. The solution requires education and action in the lunchroom, classroom and gymnasium. Companies like McCain will play an important role as we move forward together,"​ said alliance executive director Bob Harrison. Under the nutrition guidelines set forth by the alliance, products can have no more than 35 percent of their calories from total fat and 10 percent of calories from saturated fat. They can contain no more than 35 percent sugar by weight and can have no more than 230 milligrams of sodium. No trans fats are allowed. The alliance is currently working with more than 1,100 schools across the country to change the types of foods and beverages sold in schools. It expects the number of schools taking part in the initiative will grow "at least six-fold"​ within the next school year. As part of its work to help schools switch to healthier products, the alliance is providing support in contracting with competitive food suppliers. The products recommended by the group are manufactured by the companies that have pledged their support to the initiative. However, the alliance's industry director Brian Herr, told FoodNavigator-USA.com that the alliance does not aim to "promote"​ any particular products, nor does it receive any funding from the food firms involved. Instead, it expects a commitment from the firms of investment in product development and reformulation, and promotion efforts in encouraging children to consume healthier products in schools. Other companies taking part in the initiative include Mars, Campbell, the Bachman Company, Rudolph Foods Company, Shearer's Foods, and Ubiquity Brands. And last month, the nation's Snack Food Association also backed the initiative. In May 2006, the alliance announced an agreement with leaders in the beverage industry to sell only water, unsweetened juice and low-fat and non-fat milk in elementary and middle schools. It has also partnered with the number one kids' television network Nickelodeon on the Let's Just Play Go Healthy Challenge - an on-air, online and grass-roots effort to mobilize kids to adopt healthy lifestyles. To date, over 100,000 kids have pledged to Go Healthy as a result of the campaign.

Related topics: Suppliers

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