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US Senators oppose move to reclassify potato as a grain

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Washington, Mar 31 (PTI) A powerful group of American Senators from both the Republican and Democratic parties have vehemently opposed the move to reclassify potato as a grain and asserted that it should be considered as a vegetable, which is the case right now.

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American vegetable and grain growers are currently bitterly fighting on the classification of potato as a grain or a vegetable as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) is seriously considering a move in this regard for the timeline of 2025-2030.

"The scientific justification behind the assertion that potatoes are not vegetables is not strong, and there are documented nutritional benefits of potatoes. Therefore, we strongly oppose any reclassification of potatoes to the grain category under the DGAs," the bipartisan group of 14 Senators wrote in a letter to the Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.

The group said that potato has been classifed correctly as a vegetable since the inception of the US Department of Agriculture.

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"Since the inception of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), it has classified potatoes correctly as a vegetable,” the group of Senators wrote in the letter dated March 26, a copy of which was released to the media on March 29.

"There is no debate about the physical characteristics of the potato and its horticultural scientific classification. Unlike grains, white potatoes are strong contributors of potassium, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and fiber. Any change to potatoes’ current classification under the DGAs would immediately confuse consumers, retailers, restaurant operators, growers, and the entire supply chain,” the letter said.

The senators strongly urged against the reclassification of potatoes as grain.

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"We urge you to avoid reclassifying potatoes as a grain or suggest grains and potatoes are interchangeable. Given the rapid timeline that the DGAs are on, we ask that you provide us an update on this issue as soon as possible,” the Senators wrote.

The Senators argued that classifying potatoes as a grain instead of a vegetable would also go against a 2013 National Library of Medicine Study titled White Potatoes, Human Health, and Dietary Guidance.

This study found that “… potatoes should be included in the vegetable group because they contribute critical nutrients. All white vegetables, including white potatoes, provide nutrients needed in the diet and deserve a prominent position in food guides.” If potatoes were to be reclassified, consumers would miss out on vital nutrients, they argued. In addition, any change to potatoes’ current classification under the DGAs would immediately confuse consumers, retailers, restaurant operators, growers, and the entire supply chain.

That is one of the reasons that the trade groups of both sides of this classification debate have filed comments in opposition to potatoes being defined as anything other than a vegetable.

"In addition our federal nutrition programs rely on the DGAs to ensure that program beneficiaries are receiving well-balanced, nutritious food. Such a change could also come at a cost to our nation’s schools. Under the National School Breakfast and National School Lunch Programs, schools already struggle to meet vegetable consumption recommendations at a reasonable cost, and potatoes are often the most affordable vegetable,” the letter said. PTI LKJ RUP RUP RUP

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