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Fish oil to fortify fatty lunch fare at Texas schools

Associated Press, March 8, 2004

DALLAS - At some South Texas schools, a new plan for serving nutritious meals to children is a little fishy.

Old favorites like pork tamales, breakfast tacos with bacon and nacho cheese are injected with oil taken from a small, herringlike fish. The oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, which research has linked to positive health effects, including decreased risk of heart attacks.

But critics are skeptical of the benefits from adding a healthy fat to unhealthy foods. They say the quantity of omega-3 added to foods is too small to have any health benefit.

Earlier this month, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs issued a new school nutrition policy with restrictions on fried and other fatty foods, setting rules for types of foods that can be served in public schools.

Advocates of fish oil say it's a way to make lunchtime healthier without getting rid of children's favorite foods.

"I'd say this is a milestone," Margaret Lopez, who leads the child nutrition program of the Texas Education Agency's Region I that includes districts in the Rio Grande Valley, told The Dallas Morning News in Monday's editions.

However, others say they'd rather put their energies into teaching kids how to eat better than adding a bit of nutrition to fatty tamales.

"Why do we need to disguise and manipulate it?" asked Stacy Kennedy, a clinical nutritionist at Boston's Dana Farber Cancer Institute. "Why are we sneaking it in?"

Houston-based Omega Protein Corp., one of the nation's largest fish oil producers, saw Mercedes-based H&H; Foods, a meat processor that is one of the Southwest's largest school lunch suppliers, as a potential partner. The idea was to fortify the tamales, tacos, cheese sauce and other foods that H&H; produces for schools with Omega fish oil produced from menhaden.

Some studies have also shown that fatty acids from the oil can fight learning disabilities and behavioral disorders.

"I call it the preventative maintenance solution," said Harold Goode, Omega Protein's director of food service. "It's very good for brain development."

When fish oil replaced some of the saturated fats in the regular foods, initial results weren't encouraging.

"I'm not going to tell you we hit the nail on the head first time out of the box," said Ruben Hinojosa Jr., vice president for sales and marketing at H&H;, which is owned by the Hinojosa family, including U.S. Rep. Ruben Hinojosa.

But fish-oil infusions are now indistinguishable from the old favorites, according to taste-testers. The 38 school districts in the lower Rio Grande Valley buy much of their food via a cooperative run by Region I. Last month, the fishy foods were formally added to the list of foods schools can buy through the co-op.

The Texas Department of Agriculture's new rules require cuts in the amount of fatty food put on children's plates, starting Aug. 1.

"If they're going to have tamales regardless, they may as well go with omega-3 tamales," said Priscilla Conners, a University of North Texas professor and registered dietitian.

Information from: The Dallas Morning News

January 20, 2004, Press Release Source: Omega Protein Corp.

Texas School Meals Program Offers Children Healthy Omega-3-Fortified Foods

H&H; Foods Launches the First Line of Omega-3-Fortified Foods Developed to Make School Meals Healthier for Texas Schoolchildren

HOUSTON - Omega Protein Corporation, the world's largest manufacturer of fish oils containing healthy, long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids, is pleased to announce that H&H; Foods is launching the first line of Omega-3-fortified foods developed to make school meals healthier for Texas schoolchildren. The Omega-3-fortified foods will contain OmegaPure«, a taste-free, odorless Omega-3-rich fish oil produced by Omega Protein Corporation and certified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in many food applications.

"Our introduction of Omega-3-fortified foods to the Texas school system is merely a first step," said Ruben Hinojosa, Vice President of H&H; Foods. "Our objective is to introduce Omega-3-fortified food products to other school systems that we currently serve in New Mexico, Arizona, California and Oregon."

The Omega-3-enhanced products will include breakfast tacos, tamales and cheese sauces and will be available in Region One of Texas starting Febr uary 2004.

"Region One represents 38 school districts in the southern-most counties in Texas. We look forward to using these Omega-3-fortified products to provide our children with healthier eating choices," said Mark Wallace, Texas Child Nutrition Program Purchasing Specialist.

In July 2003, a U.S. Senate committee report stated that "learning disabilities and behavioral disorders have been linked to low serum levels of Omega-3 fatty acids. Therefore, particular attention should be paid to developing food choices that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids."

"Through its Omega-3-fortified school meal plan, H&H; Foods is proud to be protecting schoolchildren from learning and behavioral problems associated with poor diets," said Mr. Hinojosa.

"The human brain is approximately 60% fat and therefore it is vitally important that good fats such as Omega-3s be a part of every school child's diet," said Joe von Rosenberg, President and CEO of Omega Protein Corporation. "Our goal is to provide every school child in America with the opportunity to enjoy the health benefits of Omega-3-fortified foods."

The long-chain variety of Omega-3s --the kind derived from fish -- are more beneficial than plant-based short-chain sources because the body absorbs their protective benefits more quickly and efficiently. OmegaPure« fish oil is refined from menhaden and does not contain mercury or other environmental contaminants.


Lauren Ayers

James Curiel, PhD
Professor, Sociology

Don Glines
Educational Futures

Hasan Hanks

Jeanie Keltner, PhD
Editor, Because People Matter

Michael J. Kwiker, D.O.

William Mora, M.D.
Health Associates Medical Group

Susan Montoya

Cynthia Mulcaire

Carlina Nowrocki

Robert O┬ĺBrien, MA

Suiying Saechao
Member LEAF at Hiram Johnson HS

Charity Smith
President Youth Congress at Sac High