School Nutrition Programs Move to Eliminate Trans Fat


School Nutrition Programs Move to Eliminate Trans Fat

April 13, 2007 -- As part of a greater trend towards offering nutritious school breakfast and lunches, school nutrition programs nationwide are being proactive in reducing and eliminating trans fats from school meals. This trend is consistent with the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendation of choosing foods that limit the intake of trans fat, and coincides with the recent foodservice limits on foods with artificial trans fat that were approved in New York City, Philadelphia and elsewhere. The new policies in New York City and Philadelphia will also apply to school cafeterias.

Among the many school nutrition programs that have already eliminated trans fat or are working aggressively in that direction are the following:  

  • Burlingame Elementary School District, San Mateo, Calif.
  • Los Angeles Unified School District, Calif. 
  • Appoquinimink School District, Dover, Del.
  • Orange County Schools, Orlando, Fla. 
  • Charlevoix Public Schools, Petoskey, Mich.
  • Waterford School District, Mich.
  • Lanesboro School Board, Spring Valley, Minn.
  • Marshall Public Schools, Marshall, Minn.
  • Monroe County Schools, Rochester, NY
  • Central Dauphin, West Shore and Lower Dauphin school districts in Middletown, Penn.
  • School District of Philadelphia, Penn.
  • Fond du Lac Schools, Wisc.

Trans fat limits were also addressed in local wellness policies. Schools across America were mandated to develop and implement local school wellness policies as part of the 2004 Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act. According to SNA analysis, wellness policy language on trans fat varies with some districts stating they will 'limit trans fats in meals and food items,' while some set the limit that no more than 10% of calories over one week of lunch menus could come from trans fat and saturated fat combined. Others require labeling of trans fat on menus or limit trans fat to no more than 1 gram per serving. Most included these limits for school meals, a la carte and vending.

One challenge for school nutrition programs, particularly in small or rural communities, has been the availability from local food distributors of food products made without trans fat. This has been starting to change as food companies that sell to the school foodservice market are responding to the increased demand for products without trans fat. A search for trans fat on SNA’s CN Marketplace (a directory of current products and services for the foodservice industry) yielded 71 companies who produce a wide range of trans fat free products including applesauce, biscuits, breads, burritos, butter spreads, cereals, chips, pre-cooked chicken with whole grain breading, cookies, cooking oils, cooking sprays, breaded fish fillets, French fries, pasta, frozen pizza with whole grain crust, pre-cooked baked potatoes, pretzels, snacks, soup, sunflower seed butter, tortillas, whole grain muffins and whole grain rolls.

At the federal level, the US Department of Agriculture is expected to limit or prohibit artificial trans fat in school lunches and breakfast as part of new school meal pattern requirements anticipated to be proposed later this year or in early 2008. Additionally the Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act (S. 771/HR 1363) currently in Congress would direct the Secretary of Agriculture to develop a new definition for Foods of Minimal Nutritional Value for foods outside the school meal programs, taking into account current nutrition science including trans fat.

On the state legislative front, Connecticut (voluntary,) Indiana, New Jersey, North Carolina and Texas have current laws or regulations that would phase in limits or reductions in trans fat in school meals in the coming school years. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, eighteen states had legislation introduced this year that would address trans fat in schools or foodservice establishments (usually including schools.) These include the following:

  • California AB 86 (2007-2008, proposed) - Would prohibit the sale in elementary, middle or high schools, of foods containing partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated vegetable oils, except to the extent that these oils are naturally occurring.
  • CA AB 90 (2007-2008, proposed) - Would prohibit schools or school districts from making any food containing artificial trans fat available to pupils during school hours. Would also prohibit the use of artificial trans fat in the preparation of a food item served to pupils.
  • Florida SB 406 (2007, proposed) - Would provide nutritional standards for foods available to school children on school campuses, including a requirement that if any public elementary, middle, or high school serves fried foods, such foods must be fried in oils that are low in trans fatty acids in order to reduce the development of health abnormalities in children.
  • Hawaii HB 1797, SB 1973 (2007, proposed) - Would prohibit foods containing artificial trans fat from being used in the preparation of any menu item, or served in any food service establishment. Would take effect July 1, 2008 for cooking oils, shortening, and margarines, and on July 1, 2009, for all other foods containing artificial trans fat.
  • Illinois HB 1264 (2007, proposed) - Would create the Artificial Trans Fat Restriction Act providing that no foods containing artificial trans fat shall be stored, distributed, held for service, or used in the preparation of any menu item or served in any food service establishment or by any mobile food unit commissary except food that is being served directly to patrons in a manufacturer's original sealed package.
  • Maryland HB 91 (2007, proposed) - Would prohibit food service facilities from using food containing artificial trans fat for specified purposes; except for foods served directly to patrons in the original sealed package. Would require food service facilities to maintain on-site the original label for specified food under specified circumstances.
  • Massachusetts House Docket 99 (2007, proposed) - Would restrict trans fat in foods by providing that no foods containing artificial trans fat be stored, distributed, held for service, used in preparation of any menu item or served by a common victualler, except food that is being served directly to patrons in a manufacturer’s original sealed package. Would define foods as containing artificial trans fat if the food is labeled as, lists as an ingredient, or has vegetable shortening, margarine or any kind of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, except for foods whose nutrition facts label or other documentation from the manufacturer lists the trans fat content of the food as less than 0.5 grams per serving.
  • Michigan HB 4195 and HB 4196 (2007, proposed) - Would prohibit food service establishments (HB 4195 covers only those establishments with 20 or more locations in the state) from storing, distributing or preparing foods containing artificial trans fats, except for foods being served directly to customers in the manufacturers original sealed package. Would phase in effective dates of July 1, 2007 for oils, shortenings and margarines used in frying or spreads, July 1, 2008 for oils or shortenings used for deep frying of yeast dough or cake batter and all other trans fats.  Would require food service establishments to maintain original labels or other documentation of the contents of foods containing fats, oils or shortenings.
  • Mississippi HB 732 (2007, proposed) - Would, among other provisions, require schools to eliminate any non-naturally occurring trans fatty acids in food items and reduce the amount of and, whenever possible, eliminate saturated fat in food items, and reduce the amount of sugar and sodium in food items.
  • New Hampshire HB 324 (2006-2007, proposed) - This bill prohibits the use of artificial trans fats in any food prepared for sale or service on the premises or elsewhere, by any food service establishment or retail food store licensed by the department of health and human services, and in any restaurant licensed by a city or town.
  • New Mexico HB 1203 (2007, proposed) - Would have required restaurants to post calorie information, including the proportion of trans fat per serving for every standard menu item at the point of purchase on a menu or menu board, so that a diner could see it while or prior to ordering.   Would also have required restaurants to limit the use of a trans fat, including that in margarine and shortening, to one-half gram of trans fat per serving.
  • New York AB 1192 (2007, proposed) - Would prohibit restaurants from selling food items containing trans fats; and require notice of calorie, fat and sodium content to the public in menus and/or menu boards.
  • Oregon SB 987 (2007, proposed) - Would prohibit restaurants and mobile units from storing, using, preparing, distributing or offering food containing artificial trans fat, with specified exceptions. Would require restaurants and mobile units to maintain labels or documentation for food that contains fats, oils or shortening. Would establish a civil penalty for violations, not to exceed $1,000. Would apply to margarine, cooking oils and shortening on or after July 1, 2008, and to other food on or after January 1, 2009.
  • Rhode Island SB 113, HB 5072 (2007, proposed) - Would restrict the use of artificial trans fat in foods prepared and/or served by food businesses and food service establishments. The proposed restrictions would take effect on July 1, 2007 with respect to cooking oils, shortening, and margarines containing artificial trans fat, and on July 1, 2008 with respect to all other foods containing artificial trans fat.
  • South Carolina SB 301 (2007, proposed) - Would prohibit retail food establishments from preparing, serving or otherwise providing food containing trans fats and would require the department of health and environmental control to ascertain the use of trans fats when inspecting retail food establishments and would provide a civil fine for violations.
  • Tennessee SB 1429 (2007, proposed) - Would ban foods containing artificial trans fat in school nutrition programs, except for foods being served directly to patrons in the manufacturer's original sealed package.  Would take effect on July 1, 2007, with respect to oils, shortenings and margarines containing artificial trans fat that are used for frying or in spreads; and on July 1, 2008 for oils or shortenings used for deep frying of yeast dough or cake batter, and all other foods containing artificial trans fat.
  • Texas SB 34 (2007, proposed) - Would, among other nutrient content standards, prohibit schools from serving food items that contain excessive amounts of fat.
  • Vermont SB 130 (2007, proposed) - Proposes to ban the use of artificial trans fat at food service establishments in Vermont beginning July 1, 2007.
  • Virginia SB 1197 (2007, passed senate, left in house education committee) - Would have required the Superintendent of Public Instruction to develop guidelines to gradually eliminate foods containing trans fatty acids from public schools.


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