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Dietetic interns support nutrition legislation

by MUSC Dietetic Interns
It is easy to see that health issues are an important topic in politics, especially with the 2008 elections right around the corner. These topics range from payment and insurance-related issues to stem cell research. In one way or another, upcoming decisions about legislation will affect our lives. Topics in nutrition are no exception. Many changes regarding reimbursement for nutrition services, as well as issues in food quality, are facing our government daily.
As a project, the MUSC dietetic interns chose to support a variety of potential new topics appearing before Congress this year. Below are issues summarized that will affect not only nutrition professionals, but also all those who could potentially benefit from the care of a dietitian.
In the United States Department of Agriculture’s Household Food Security in the United States 2005 report, South Carolina was the fourth leading state for food insecurity in 2003-2005, up from ranking 14th in 2000-2002. Many food insecure households turn to federal food assistance programs or emergency food providers in their community when they are unable to obtain enough food. The problem is that food banks throughout our state are receiving fewer donations and more people are coming in seek of help. The increased demand is outstripping supplies and forcing many pantries and food banks to cut portions.
In an effort to improve the quality of foods sold in schools, the Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act of 2007 (S.771) will amend the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 to improve the health of school-age children. The new act will further define “foods of minimal nutritive value,” including snacks such as chips and candy, so that these foods no longer will be sold in competition with school breakfast and lunch. More students will be encouraged to consume two-thirds of their daily nutritional needs from federally-funded and approved meals as a result of this measure.
The Quality Cheese Act, S. 530, seeks to prohibit the use of the term “natural” or “domestic” cheese on products that include ultra-filtered milk, or milk protein concentrate (MPC). MPC is a cheap product used to increase cheese yield. This product is not located on the FDA’s “Generally Recognized As Safe” additive list, and is imported from countries with less than ideal purity standards. Labeling cheese with MPC or ultra-filtered milk “natural” or “domestic” is deceptive to the consumer.
S. 1161: Medicare Medical Nutrition Therapy Act of 2007 would amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to authorize the expansion of Medicare coverage of medical nutrition therapy (MNT) services. Currently, MNT services are only covered by Medicare for people with diabetes or renal disease. As a result, beneficiaries diagnosed as having any other chronic disease or risk factors are not eligible to receive these essential nutrition services.
Through MNT provided by a registered dietitian, patients are given the tools for optimal health to manage chronic disease, decrease health care costs, and most importantly, improve their quality of life. Millions of people in the United States who suffer from heart disease, hypertension, cancer, obesity, and other nutrition-related diseases should not be denied the countless benefits that MNT provides.
In Georgia, HR. 826 proposes the creation of a House Study Committee on Trans Fat Alternatives for the Georgia Food Industry. Research has shown a direct correlation between trans fat consumption and increased risk for cardiovascular disease and other complications. The committee would serve to enforce state regulations on the use of artificial trans fats in restaurants and public schools. By regulating the usage of trans fats, the health of Georgia citizens, especially its children in the public school systems, would be promoted.
West Virginia House Bill 2244, “Promoting and Facilitating the Breastfeeding of Infants,” recognizes that breast-feeding is a worthwhile public health endeavor. This bill is designed to encourage the promotion of breast feeding by excusing mothers from jury duty and recognizing mother/infant friendly workplaces. The bill also outlines proper conduct and rules for the practicing breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is a healthy and beneficial practice for mother and child. Those interested in breastfeeding promotion should contact their local representative and look for similar state bills.
For more information about these bills and other important legislation, visit, and write to your state representative to encourage support of these important bills.


Friday, May 2, 2008
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