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For Immediate
March 25, 1999

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  USDA’s Food Guide Pyramid for Children Should Promote Healthful Food Choices, Not Heart Disease
Statement by Margo Wootan, D.Sc., Senior Scientist

“USDA’s food guide pyramid for children reinforces kids’ worst eating habits and may increase heart disease in the next generation. It shows once again that USDA’s mission to promote the meat and dairy industries is incompatible with its responsibility to promote good nutrition.

“The pyramid depicts four out of the five leading sources of saturated fat in kids’ diets. Those are milk, cheese, hamburgers, and ice cream according to USDA’s own data. The pyramid may lead some parents to mistakenly believe that kids don’t need to limit foods that clog arteries.

“High intakes of saturated fat raise serum cholesterol levels in children, and children with elevated cholesterol levels are more likely to have high cholesterol levels as adults. Heart disease begins in childhood, decades before heart attacks occur. Fatty streaks—an early stage of atherosclerosis—develop in the arteries of children as young as three.

“Despite its concerns, CSPI applauds USDA for encouraging kids to eat more whole grains, fruits and vegetables and less soda, candy, margarine and butter.

“We need truly effective programs to promote healthy eating to children. For starters, USDA should mount national, mass-media campaigns to promote delicious, nutritious foods to kids. Congress should ban junk-food ads on children’s television and ban the sale of junk foods in schools until after the lunch period.”