County Board of Supervisors passes nutrition guidelines

Santa Clara County just got a little healthier. 

In an unanimous decision by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors Tuesday, the county will now have healthier food options in county facilities that include vending machines and cafeterias. 

Starting July 1, 2012, the new county nutrition standards would make all vending machines in county facilities carry 100 percent of its food and beverages with a healthier standard-eliminating for example all sodas with added sugar. In cafeterias, at least 50 percent of food items would be required to be considered ‘healthy’ and displayed prominently. These and other healthier standards affect such areas as the Department of Correction, Department of Probation, Social Services and the Valley Medical Center. 

Even places like the county fair, commonplace for those deep-fried fair foods and sugary sweets, will have to offer at least one healthy food and beverage item placed prominently. Custodial properties, such as juvenile hall, will not be allowed deep fat frying, flavored milk, or canned fruit in heavy syrup.

In total, the County serves more than 6 million meals a year. 

A presentation by the Public Health Department at Tuesday’s supervisor meeting outlined the facts: at least 25 percent of the children in the county are considered overweight or obese. In adult populations, a minimum of two out of three adults in the county is either overweight or obese, said County Health officer Dr. Marty Fenstersheib in his presentation. 

Another representative from the Public Health Department cited the unnecessary sugars in drinks offered in vending machines: a 20-ounce bottle of cola soda has more than 16 teaspoons of added sugar with no nutritional value. 

“We want to do something other than just talk about this obesity epidemic,” said Fenstersheib. 

It’s these types of facts that pushed the board over a year ago in Dec. 2010 to ask for more information to make nutritional standards. 

Supervisor Ken Yeager of district 4 said these new regulations are the highest standards of any jurisdiction in California. 

Supervisor Mike Wasserman of district 1, whose area includes Gilroy, Morgan Hill and San Martin, said he was glad to see the board make a move in the right direction.  

“There’s a transition taking place here and I think its an appropriate one based on the facts that you opened your presentation with, which is the amount of obesity that is prevalent in our county and in our country,” said Wasserman. “And I think what is not known is the cost to tax payers and also the cost to human life.”

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