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Potato Council Debunks First Lady's 'Science' Claims

By Craig Bannister | May 29, 2014 | 3:13pm EDT

Today, the National Potato Council praised the House for considering a bill to include the potato in its WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) food nutrition ("food stamp") program. The Council also debunked First Lady Michelle Obama's claims that including the potato would "override science" and that Americans are already eating enough of them.

The Potato Council notes that the First Lady's science is based on old data - not the latest government reports:

"Opponents of adding fresh potatoes to the WIC package are picking and choosing the science. Instead of relying on a 2005 report that looks at data from the mid-1990s, we argue that important federal nutrition programs should be based on the latest available science - in this case, USDA's own 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans."

"We appreciate the House and Senate members and staff who reviewed the science and the history of the WIC fruit and vegetable voucher program, and support a path forward that will allow WIC participants access to fresh potatoes."

"Based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the most recent CDC consumption data, all Americans, including WIC participants, are under consuming nutritionally rich potatoes."

"Since potatoes are a recognized source of potassium, fiber, and folate - nutrients that are deficient in many WIC participants' diets - adding them to this important federal nutrition program is grounded in science. We are confident that allowing participants to purchase any fresh fruit or vegetable in the produce aisle reinforces WIC program's mission to provide both nutrition and nutrition education for low-income women, infants, and children who are found to be at risk. In addition, adding inexpensive, nutrient-dense potatoes to the basket will help WIC mothers stretch their WIC dollars and reduce confusion at checkout."

At issue is First Lady Michelle Obama's commentary in today's New York Times opposing the House initiative to add the potato to the WIC program - in which she says it would "override science" and claims women and children are getting enough potatoes:

"Right now, the House of Representatives is considering a bill to override science by mandating that white potatoes be included on the list of foods that women can purchase using WIC dollars. Now, there is nothing wrong with potatoes. The problem is that many women and children already consume enough potatoes and not enough of the nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables they need. That's why the Institute of Medicine - the nonpartisan, scientific body that advises on the standards for WIC - has said that potatoes should not be part of the WIC program."

But, as the Potato Council explains, the updated government data show women and children aren't consuming nearly enough potatoes:

Pres. Obama enjoys a french fried potato

"Unfortunately, women and children - including those in the WIC program - are consuming fewer starchy vegetables today, not more. The government's own data (Center for Disease Control's 2009-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES)), show that women in the 19-30 age group consume only 2.4 cups of starchy vegetables per week, meeting less than half of the 2010 DGA-recommended intake (5 cups) for women with a 2,000 calorie diet. The diets of both male and female children also fall short of the 2010 DGA recommendations. For the 2-4 age group, girls consume 0.6 cups per week less than the maximum recommendations for starchy vegetable consumption, while boys consume 1.4 cups less."

The white potato is the only fresh fruit or vegetable excluded from the WIC program. Even such nutritionally-dubious items as sugar cane are allowed.

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