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Maryland district bans certain chemicals in foods

Montgomery County schools are prohibiting certain dyes, artificial sweeteners and other chemical additives in the foods it serves in its cafeterias.

GAITHERSBURG, Md. — Montgomery County students will be seeing fewer dyes, artificial sweeteners and other chemical additives in their food after a recent decision by school officials to add to a list of banned ingredients.

As Montgomery County Public Schools enters into new contracts with food vendors, the system will require that foods be free of the Blue 2, Green 3, Red 3, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 food dyes, aspartame, acesulfame-potassium, butylated hydroxyanisole, potassium bromate, propyl gallate, saccharin, sodium tripolyphosphate and tert-Butylhydroquinone, said Marla Caplon, director of food and nutrition services for the school system. Existing contracts won’t be affected.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved all the newly banned chemical additives, Caplon said. They are not “toxic” and the school system is not required to get rid of them.

“But there’s enough conversation, so moving forward we’re going to eliminate those items,” she said.

The school system has already banned certain ingredients from the food it serves students, Caplon said, including monosodium glutamate, trans fats and lean finely textured beef — sometimes referred to as “pink slime.”

The new restrictions will affect crackers, baked goods and other snacks in school cafeterias, Caplon said. Students will notice the changes in the next couple of years or possibly sooner if suppliers decide to change their products to fit the new standards.

“Montgomery County is a large enough customer to many of these manufacturers that they’ll make the change,” she said.

School officials have conducted research and talked with parents as well as agencies outside the system about the chemicals, Caplon said.

Lindsey Parsons, co-founder of Real Food for Kids-Montgomery, said the change marks “a huge step.” Her organization, which includes more than 3,500 members, has advocated for healthier foods in county school cafeterias.

She said Real Food appreciates the school system’s decision given

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