160 19 25 LINKEDIN 4 COMMENTMORE

The Department of Agriculture's Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children is one of the most successful tools our country has for strengthening the nutrition and health of pregnant women and young children. It has resulted in longer gestation periods and healthier kids.

OUR VIEW: Let science decide what food to subsidize

But it has a glaring flaw. The federal government has excluded only one fresh vegetable from the WIC program: the fresh white potato. This makes no sense and, in fact, ignores the latest nutritional science.

Because some people don't differentiate between french fries and baked potatoes, the potato has gotten a bad rap. We believe a balance can be found that preserves the integrity of programs such as WIC while also ensuring that the most updated facts are being used to determine the best nutrients for Americans — including from the potato.

As we recently wrote to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, in a letter signed by a bipartisan group of 18 colleagues, USDA's singling out of the potato relied on a now-outdated 2005 report by the National Academies' Institute of Medicine. That report used decades-old consumption data and obsolete nutritional guidelines. USDA itself released updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans in 2010 that list four "nutrients of concern" — potassium, dietary fiber, calcium and vitamin D. Yet an excellent source of these nutrients, the fresh potato, remains excluded.

The fact is, potatoes have more potassium than bananas. Potatoes are cholesterol-free, fat-free and sodium-free. A medium baked potato contains 15% of the daily recommended value of dietary fiber, 27% of the daily recommended value for vitamin B6 and 28% of the daily recommended value of vitamin C. Instead of limiting the availability of the fresh potato, USDA should encourage its healthy preparation.

USDA has an obligation to base federal nutrition programs on sound science and the latest nutritional data. By preventing WIC participants from purchasing fresh white potatoes, USDA is ignoring its own nutritional recommendations and depriving WIC participants of a nutritional food option.

Susan Collins is a Republican senator from Maine, and Mark Udall is a Democratic senator from Colorado.


160 19 25 LINKEDIN 4 COMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: http://usat.ly/1gcbjk1