WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — Ten grain industry groups, including the American Bakers Association and the Grain Foods Foundation, stressed the need for enriched grains in school meals and requested whole grain definitions in comments sent April 13 to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). The comments concerned the proposed rule “Nutrition Standards in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs” published Jan. 13 in the Federal Register.

Under the proposed rule, two years post-implementation, all grains offered during the school week must be “whole grain rich.” Yet the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, both in the 2005 edition and the 2010 edition, recommend Americans make half their daily grain servings whole grains, which leaves room for enriched grains.

While supporting increased consumption of whole grains by school children, the groups said enriched grains offer health benefits as well. Enriched grains contain twice as much folic acid as whole grains, and since the Food and Drug Administration issued the mandate of folic acid fortification to enriched flour in the late 1990s, neural tube birth defects in the U.S. have decreased by 25% to 35%, according to the groups.

“We realize that most consumers, including children, fall short of the recommendation to make their grain servings whole,” the groups said. “Nonetheless, given the importance of enriched grains in the diet, and in particular in the diets (of) young women, we urge FNS to maintain consistency with the Dietary Guidelines recommendations to make half your grain servings whole in its school meal nutrition standards.”

The groups pointed out six different definitions for what constitutes a “whole grain” are in use among various federal agencies, which makes it difficult for school administrators and manufacturers to know what products comply and how they should be labeled. The groups said a uniform definition for “whole grain” is needed.

“We support defining ‘whole grains’ as those foods containing a minimum 5 to 8 grams of whole grain ingredients per serving or a product with whole grain as the first grain ingredient in the ingredient listing,” the groups said. “Based on feedback from our members, this is a realistic and attainable amount that most, if not all, whole grain products currently available on the market can already achieve.”

The groups also pointed out no definition for “whole grain rich” is referenced in the proposed rule.

The groups included the American Bakers Association, AIB International, the Grain Foods Foundation, the Grains for Health Foundation, the Independent Bakers Association, the National Pasta Association, the North American Millers’ Association, the USA Rice Federation, the Wheat Foods Council and the Wheat Quality Council.