Untitled 1 Healthy School Food Maryland
Real Food for Kids - Montgomery  
MCPS Bans Chemical Additives from School Food

Update - April 30, 2018
MCPS has announced that all food dyes will be eliminated from foods sold in MCPS as of July 1, 2018 (excluding the safer version of caramel color).

October 15, 2014
Real Food for Kids - Montgomery (RFKM) is pleased to announce that after over a year of advocacy work with the Montgomery County Public Schools on the topic of food dyes and other chemical food additives, MCPS Director of Food and Nutrition Services Marla Caplon has announced that from now on, a number of dangerous additives will be prohibited from bids for food served in its cafeterias. We are very thankful to MCPS and Ms. Caplon for hearing and acting on parent concerns. The list includes a number of artificial food dyes (Blue 2, Green 3, Red 3, Yellow 5 and 6); artificial sweeteners aspartame, acesulfame-potassium and saccharin; trans fat; lean finely textured beef (AKA pink slime); MSG; BHA and TBHQ. These chemicals were all identified as potentially harmful by scientists for Center for Science in the Public Interest, who worked with RFKM Slushie Machinesto develop a target list. RFKM members have expressed concern about these chemicals due to studies linking them to ADHD, cancer and other adverse effects. While many parents keep their children from consuming these chemicals by avoiding school food, 34% of children in MCPS qualify for free and reduced priced meals and may eat up to three times a day at school. Children who are sensitive to these substances may suffer from hyperactivity after consuming them, which impacts the classroom environment and should therefore be of concern to all MCPS parents.

The changes will affect all contracts going forward but will not affect existing contracts until they expire. Unless changes are made to these products, eventually these changes will remove from sale many popular a la carte snacks in MCPS, including Welch's Fruit Snacks, Cheez-It Crackers, Cool Ranch and Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos, Baked! Cheetos, Eagle Popped Crisps, several flavors of the Ridgefield's Fruit Smoothies and several ice cream bars with artificial colorings. While some parents may be concerned that students will have few choices left, there are in fact many excellent, clean-label snacks available and the example from other school systems indicate that with time, students get used to new options. We have also identified a few of the entree items and sauces that will be impacted, including the spicy chicken breast patties, orange chipotle sauce and sweet and sour sauce.

While we're very excited about the chemicals that will no longer be in our children's food, we must note the absence of other substances that we requested be removed in our June 3, 2014 petition to the school board: red dyes #2 and #40, blue dye # 1, caramel color, artificial flavors, azodicarbonamide, sucralose, cyclamates, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), potassium bromate, sodium benzoate, brominated vegetable oil (BVO), BHT, sodium nitrite/nitrate, substances similar to MSG that contain glutamate, such as Torula yeast and hydrolyzed vegetable protein, Mycoprotein (Quorn), and sulfites/SO2. We recognize that the exclusion of these remaining chemicals would necessitate a substantive change in the way MCPS does school food, as almost all of the processed foods served in MCPS contain one of these substances, which may have impacted the decision for a partial list. RFKM has communicated parent desires that MCPS move from their model of serving processed, reheated food to preparing food fresh in their central facility, thereby eliminating many chemical additives. With the opening of a new central facility estimated in January 2015, we are hoping that more and more items will be prepared from scratch at the county level.

For food chemical nerds like ourselves, the complete list of chemicals to be banned is: Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), trans fat, lean finely textured beef, Blue 2, Green 3, Red 3, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Aspartame, Acesulfame-Potassium, Saccharin, Butylated Hydroxyanisol (BHA), Potassium Bromate, Propyl Gallate, Sodium Tripoly Phoshate (STPP), and Tert-Butylhydroquinone (TBHQ).

Media coverage:
10/20/14 - Food Service Director - Maryland district bans certain chemicals in foods

10/17/14 - CBS DC - Doritos, Fruit Snacks Get the Boot as Montgomery County Schools Ban Certain Additives

10/16/14 - Bethesda Now - MCPS Getting Rid Of Some Cafeteria Snack Foods

Other RFKM Accomplishments


"By serving the current foods in our schools, we are contributing to the ongoing childhood obesity epidemic and putting more & more of our children at risk for diabetes. Please work to improve the nutrition in our schools....our future depends upon the health of our children.".
- an RFKM Supporter

"I am glad that this is being addressed I am appalled at some of the food that is being served to the students. I can not believe that "Honey Buns" (among other junkie foods) are being served for breakfast the most important meal of the day! I have been substituting in a Pre-Kindergarten class at a school for about four months. Most of the time the students don't eat the school breakfast and fruit is rarely served during breakfast. The frozen blue ice is horrible. Our children are precious and eating junk food does indeed slow them down throughout the day."
- a substitute teacher in MCPS



         Copyright © 2022   Chesapeake Institute for Local Sustainable Food and Agriculture (HSFM's fiscal sponsor)