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Center for Food Safety Sues Trump Administration for Unlawfully Keeping Secret the Reasons for Gutting the School Lunch Nutrition Program

July 02, 2019
Center for Food Safety

Center for Food Safety Sues Trump Administration for Unlawfully Keeping Secret the Reasons for Gutting the School Lunch Nutrition Program

San Francisco, CA — Center for Food Safety (CFS) has filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration's Department of Agriculture for the agency's failure to release government documents detailing why it decided to substantially reduce or eliminate child school lunch nutrition standards. The lawsuit specifically concerned the agency's unlawful withholding of records concerning USDA's final rule, "Child Nutrition Programs: Flexibilities for Milk, Whole Grains, and Sodium," which it was required to make public to CFS under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The Trump administration has rolled back nutritional standards for children and school lunches in several key programs, such as allowing of flavored, low-fat milk—which has significantly more sugar than non-flavored, low-fat milk—in the Special Milk Program for Children. The Trump administration also delayed plans to steadily reduce the amount of sodium in school lunches by specific target deadlines. The most aggressive of these targets—an up to 50% reduction by July 2022—was eliminated altogether, ensuring that higher sodium levels remain in school lunches for the foreseeable future.    

"USDA is charged with protecting the health of our children and setting strong nutritional standards, not gutting them and then keeping secret why," said Tori Yundt, attorney at Center for Food Safety. "American children deserve the best, not reduced standards. It is unacceptable that we have to sue the administration to obtain public documents that are essential to helping families understand the dangers of those lowered nutrition standards may impose on their children's health."

USDA's unlawful withholding of public records undermines FOIA's basic purpose of government transparency. CFS has a history of suing USDA to compel the agency to be compliant with FOIA. CFS's FOIA program is committed to upholding the principles embodied in FOIA, such as maintaining an open and transparent government.

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