Nutrition/tobacco riders in House agriculture appropriations bill a setback for public health, says American Heart Association

July 12, 2017 Categories: Advocacy News

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 12, 2017 — American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown issued the following comments on the FY 2018 appropriations bill, released today by the House Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Committee: 

“The nutrition and tobacco riders tucked into this bill are a serious setback to the strong progress we’ve made on these issues to benefit the health of the public. This legislation fails everyone when it comes to nutrition. Successful school meal standards are being recast, voluntary sodium targets are stalled, and the food stocking requirements for retailers in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) could put the health of participants at risk.   

The school meals rider is nothing more than an unjustifiable attempt to roll back a program that has been successfully creating access to healthy foods and beverages in schools, and has gained significant buy-in across the country from parents, students, teachers, school food service personnel and school administrators. With adequate implementation support and technical assistance, these successes can continue. America’s students are eating more nutritious foods and consuming less saturated and trans fats, sugar and salt as a result of these standards. Healthy eating can help young people reduce their risk for heart disease and stroke – leading causes of death and disability in our country. In fact, children who eat too much sodium are about 35 percent more likely to have elevated blood pressure than children who eat less. We once thought of high blood pressure as only an adult disease. It is unfathomable why the House would want to stop the USDA from working on any sodium reduction in schools past target one, especially since bringing sodium to reasonable levels in school meals has already been so successful. The rider also would roll back the evidence-based whole grains and milk standards. This would unfortunately allow for fewer heart-healthy whole grains in children’s diets and increase the availability of milk drinks with added sugar.

The rider that calls for USDA to reopen the SNAP retailers healthy stocking requirement is also bad policy for nutrition and healthy food access. The rider would have the potential for more unhealthy foods to qualify as staple foods under the program, endangering the health and well-being of SNAP recipients and low-income consumers in vulnerable communities.

In addition, the association is disappointed to see, once again, language that prohibits the FDA from moving forward with long-term population-wide sodium reduction actions until the Dietary Reference Intake update is completed. Congress needs to understand that these voluntary sodium targets could make a significant difference in lowering salt intake in the United States, thus improving our nation’s heart health. We disapprove of using this rider as a delay tactic.

Equally troubling is the language on tobacco policy. One rider flat out exempts many cigars from FDA oversight. Our association strongly believes that the FDA should regulate all products, since tobacco in any form presents health risks. Further, we are particularly concerned that this could create a loophole that would allow tobacco manufacturers to manipulate their products to evade the agency’s oversight.

A second tobacco rider would reduce the FDA’s authority over e-cigarettes and cigars introduced to the market after 2007 by changing the grandfather date. This would allow potentially thousands of tobacco products to skip FDA review even if they pose safety and health risks to the millions of people who use them. While we appreciate that House members included a requirement that the FDA develop a product standard for flavors in e-cigarettes, changing the grandfather date puts e-cigarette users’ health at risk. We urge Congress to strike this rider and the other ill-conceived tobacco and nutrition provisions from the final legislation.”   

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About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – the two leading causes of death in the world. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-800-AHA-USA1, visit heart.org or call any of our offices around the country. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About the American Stroke Association

The American Stroke Association is devoted to saving people from stroke — the No. 2 cause of death in the world and a leading cause of serious disability. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat stroke. The Dallas-based association officially launched in 1998 as a division of the American Heart Association. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-888-4STROKE or visit StrokeAssociation.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association receives funding mostly from individuals. Foundations and corporations donate as well, and fund specific programs and events. Strict policies are enforced to prevent these relationships from influencing the Association's science content. Financial information for the American Heart Association, including a list of contributions from pharmaceutical companies and device manufacturers, is available at http://www.heart.org/corporatefunding.

For Media Inquiries:

Abbey Dively: abbey.dively@heart.org, (202) 785-7905

For Public Inquiries: (800) AHA-USA1 (242-8721)

heart.org and strokeassociation.org