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Extent of Juice Doctoring Unknown, GAO Reports

There is no way to know how much watered-down fruit juice may be used in federally funded school-lunch programs, and attempts to find out would be expensive, the General Accounting Office has concluded.

While the problem may not be widespread, orange juice is much more likely than apple juice to be adulterated with water or other ingredients, and institutional customers are more at risk than retail consumers, according to a report by the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress.

Detecting adulterated juice, which shaves costs for processors, could be done through in-plant inspections or a testing program--both costly alternatives, said the GAO report, which was issued this month.

Since the mid-1980s, the Justice Department has won six convictions on charges of adulterating juice. As a result, the Department of Agriculture has barred three companies and 21 individuals from selling juice to school-meals programs, according to the GAO.

Medicaid Plans Criticized

An article published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association assailed pending proposals to overhaul the federal Medicaid program, arguing that guarantees of health coverage for poor children should be maintained.

The commentary article, which appeared in the Nov. 8 issue of the medical journal, opposed plans to turn a fixed amount of funding for Medicaid services into a block grant to the states, where it could fall prey to competing budgetary interests. The article was written by six experts in children's health, including two pediatricians.

Republicans have argued that spending for Medicaid and other programs must be cut to balance the federal budget. But the article contended that Medicaid has provided millions of poor children with necessary medical services at a "relatively modest cost to society."

The same issue of the journal also includes an editorial critical of congressional plans, which argues that "reform should be viewed as an investment in children," rather than a deficit-reduction initiative.

Another article discusses how gaps in health insurance for preschool children affects their access to medical care.

About half of all participants in Medicaid, the federally guaranteed program of health care for low-income people, are children. The program finances health care for between 20 percent and 25 percent of American children.

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