Land of the fries: America classes frozen chips as a fresh vegetable

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The Independent US

Health experts looking for ways to tackle America's soaring levels of obesity would do well to examine a recent ruling by Judge Richard Schell.

Health experts looking for ways to tackle America's soaring levels of obesity would do well to examine a recent ruling by Judge Richard Schell.

The Texas judge last week ruled that batter-covered chips should be considered a fresh vegetable. Of greater concern is that the US Department of Agriculture is behind the new classification.

Judge Schell, from the town of Beaumont, made the ruling during a hearing concerning the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act. The department's proposal to list batter-coated fries as fresh was being challenged by a Dallas-area food distributor, Fleming Companies. The company is facing bankruptcy and the law requires creditors who sold fresh fruits and vegetables to be paid in full, while other creditors can receive partial payment.

"It's unfathomable to me that, when Congress passed this law in 1930 and used the term 'fresh vegetable,' they ever could have conceived that large food-processing companies could have convinced USDA that a frozen battered french fry fell into that definition," said Tim Elliott, Mr Fleming's lawyer.

But the department said that the battered french fry classification applies only to rules of commerce, not nutrition. It did not consider an order of fries the same as an apple when it came to the school lunch test.

John Webster, a spokesman for the USDA's Centre for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, said: "The vegetables we are talking about encouraging the consumption of are dark green vegetables like broccoli and orange and yellow vegetables like squash."

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