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Bill Limits Fat In School Meals

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A bill awaiting Gov. George Deukmejian's signature would make California the first state to mandate nutritional guidelines that limit the amount of fat and cholesterol in school meals.

The bill would require the state department of education to develop specific guideliness for healthy meals, including specific limits on the allowable amounts of fat and cholesterol. When comparable food products of equal nutritional are available, the measure would require schools to chose the food that is lower in fat and cholesterol.

A spokesman for the governor said Mr. Deukmejian has not yet decided if he will sign the bill.

"I'm sad to say that for many children, the school lunch they eat is the most balanced meal they receive all day," said Assemblyman Jackie Speier, the bill's sponsor. "This is particularly alarming when that lunch consists of a corn dog and tater tots, as I recently witnessed at a local elementary school in my district."

The department of education, which supports the measure, will develop its guidelines using the California Daily Food Guide, federal dietary guidelines, and the recommended dietary allowance developed by the National Research Counil. The nrc, along with other scientific organizations, have recommended that no more than 30 percent of a child's caloric intake should come from fat.

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the federal school-nutrition programs, said the agency believes that there is not enough scientific evidence to justify mandating specific nutritional standards.

A study released last month by Public Voice for Food and Health Policy, a Washington-based advocacy group, found that two out of three food administrators surveyed believe that the department's commodity program is a major barrier to removing fat from school meals.

Eileen Kugler, a spokesman for the group, said the California bill is the first of its kind in the country.

"It's the type of standard we would like to see nationally," she said.

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