Cranberry products could be eliminated in school cafeterias, under new federal legislation. The Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act seeks to crack down on added sugar as part of the nation’s anti-obesity efforts.
Cranberries are naturally low in sugar, but sugar needs to be added to make the fruit palatable, so says Tom Lochner, Executive Director of the Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association. “In the wild, in their natural state, (cranberries) do not contain much sugar at all and as a result, eating straight cranberries or cranberry juice generally isn’t palatable to a consumer so we do have to add some type of sweetener.”
Lochner says even with added sugar many cranberry products have less total sugar than other acceptable fruit products like raisins, grapes or apple juice. Lochner says the cranberry industry provides a variety of products, whether sweetened with other juices, artificial sweeteners, or refined sugar.
“The body is going to digest or metabolize sugar and it can’t tell the difference between sugars that come from corn syrup or sugar cane or apple juice or grape juice or other juices. Those are all metabolized by the body in the same manner.”
Cranberries contain significant amounts of antioxidants that may help protect against heart disease, cancer and other diseases. The tart fruit helps to prevent urinary tract infections, reduce the risk of gum disease, and prevent ulcers.
The issue was highlighted earlier this week when Congressman Tom Petri, a Fond du Lac Republican, questioned the potential ban. Wisconsin produces more cranberries than any other state in the nation. Lochner says the cranberry industry has been talking with members of Congress and the FDA.
The $4.5 billion child nutrition bill passed the US Senate earlier this year, but is stalled in the House.