Calls to Drop Popular Lunch Menu Item From School Lunch Program Grows

Consumer Reports is calling for the removal of Lunchables from the USDA's National School Lunch Program. They launched a petition, highlighting concerns about high sodium and harmful chemicals.

The nonprofit tested 12 prepackaged products from Lunchables and other brands. These items, they say, have concerning levels of sodium and chemicals. Lunchables, a Kraft Heinz brand, sells various types through grocery stores and the school lunch program.

A student was seen eating Lunchables at Pembroke Elementary in North Carolina. This school has been offering Lunchables as a lunch option this year.

Brian Ronholm, Director of Food Policy at Consumer Reports, warned that the tested products have harmful sodium levels and chemicals. These, he says, can lead to health issues over time.

Consumer Reports' findings suggest these lunch kits contain up to half of a child's daily sodium limit. School-specific Lunchables may have even higher sodium levels.

Tests revealed lead, cadmium, and phthalates in the lunch kits. Despite not exceeding federal limits, some levels were high compared to California's standards.

Ronholm urged the USDA to offer healthier school lunch options, removing Lunchables. However, a USDA spokesperson stated they don't allow or disallow specific food items but focus on meal content overall.

Kraft Heinz defended the quality and safety of Lunchables, calling the Consumer Reports study misleading. The company emphasized that their products meet government safety standards and contain naturally occurring metals at safe levels.

They also stated that their school program Lunchables meet USDA standards, with increased meat for higher protein. This adjustment, they note, naturally raises sodium levels for product preservation.

Lunchables, a staple since the 1980s, have grown to include a variety of options. Kraft Heinz, the parent company, boasts a market capitalization of $44.67 billion.