Snack food content to be changed - again

America's overweight children may be able to shed a few more pounds following word Friday of a deal reached by the snack food industry and former President Bill Clinton.

In 2005, the William J. Clinton Foundation and American Heart Association formed the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. They began working to combat childhood obesity, which is blamed for the early onset of diabetes and other illnesses.

The agreement establishes new guidelines for fat, sugar, sodium and calorie content of snack foods sold in school vending machines, stores and snack bars. Kraft Foods Inc., Mars Inc., Campbell Soup Co., Groupe Danone SA and PepsiCo Inc. are companies involved, and they make such products as M&M's, yogurt, granola bars, Frito-Lay potato chips, Snickers bars and canned soups.

Under the guidelines, most food will not be permitted to derive more than 35 percent of their calories from fat and more than 10 percent from saturated fat. There also would be a 35-percent limit for sugar content by product weight, according to an AP story out of New York City.

"By working with schools and industry to implement these guidelines, we are helping to give parents peace of mind that their kids will be able to make healthier choices at school," Dr. Raymond Gibbons, president of the AHA, told the AP.

The Arizona State Legislature made a move toward the same goal of reducing childhood obesity on July 1. It directed public schools to comply with Arizona Nutrition Standards set forth by the state Department of Education concerning the sale of snack foods in school vending machines.

Allowable and non-allowable items were identified in the legislation. Maximum portion sizes also were specified for allowable items.

Beverages banned at the time included Powerade and Gatorade. In addition, the sugar content was deemed unacceptable in many Nature Valley and Nutri-Grain granola products.

Waters, unsweetened juices and low-fat and nonfat milk took over spaces formerly held by soft drinks in elementary and middle schools. Diet sodas and sports drinks still are sold in high schools.

Charles Nicolas, a spokesman for PepsiCo, said products made by his company meet the guidelines. "We're going to change a few recipes so that more snacks meet those guidelines as well," he said.

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As of Friday, the state Department of Education began offering personalized AIMS study guides for high school students who have taken, but not passed, one or more of the AIMS tests now necessary for graduation. The study guides are available in a PDF format from the Web site at www.ade.state.az.us. They describe a student's scores in specific detail and provide basic instruction and practice in reading, writing and math.

A student may obtain his/her personalized study guide by following the prompts beginning with "Downloading Your Study Guide." Have the following information ready: name of your school; your zip code; AIMS scores for reading, writing and math; and scores for each strand (e.g. reading process, number sense, data analysis).

A customized study guide is immediately created and available for use. Anyone with questions may contact Susan Fleishman, Mohave County math and science specialist, at 753-0747 or by e-mail to sfleishman@mcss.k12.az.us.