The Trump Administration Takes on Two Obama-Era Food Regulations

updated May 30, 2019
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The Trump administration is directly aiming at food policy for the next area to loosen regulations. Last week, the federal government separately pinpointed two areas where they plan to make changes for consumers: school lunches and calorie labels on menus. The former will see looser rules, while implementation of the latter has been delayed. Here’s what you need to know about both.

Looser Regulations on School Lunches

Under the Obama administration, first lady Michelle Obama made strides in making school lunches healthier as part of her “Let’s Move” initiative. President Obama signed the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which held school cafeterias accountable for providing healthier foods.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced last week that the school lunch requirements — serving whole grains, a variety of fruits and veggies, whole milks, and low-salt foods — will be rolled back. Not only will schools be able to opt out of regulations, but the USDA will loosen requirements to reduce salt and provide low-fat milk options.

According to Perdue, the regulations are difficult on schools and the students don’t like the foods. “We all know that kids are pretty outspoken about what they want to eat and what they don’t,” Perdue says, as reported by NPR, “We’ve got to balance the nutritional aspect with the palatability.”

But health advocates aren’t on board. “We would not lower standards for reading, writing, and arithmetic just because students found them challenging subjects, and we should not do it for school nutrition either,” says Howell Wechsler, CEO of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, in a statement.

(Image credit: Grzegorz Czapski)

Restaurant Calorie Label Requirements Delayed

In a separate move, the Trump administration is halting yet another Obama-era regulation. As per the Affordable Care Act in 2010, chain restaurants and food retailers had until May 5 of this year — pushed back from the original 2015 deadline — to post calorie information.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) delayed the labeling requirements of restaurant menus to next May. Food and restaurant industry groups have lobbied heavily against the requirements, arguing the rules are unduly burdensome and costly to implement, and that they need more time to comply.

“The FDA has made the right decision to delay a rule that would have essentially dictated how every food service establishment in America with more than 20 locations — restaurants, grocery stores, movie theaters, and more — writes and displays their menus,” says Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price in a statement.

Advocates of the policy are not impressed. “Republicans are just as likely as Democrats to suffer from diabetes, heart disease, and other diet-related health problems,” Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest says in a statement. “Yet the Trump Administration is myopically putting Big Food’s interests over the interests of American consumers.”