Reports that US government could axe POTATOES as a vegetable sparks fury among Democrat AND Republican senators

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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  • Letter sparked by rumblings that potatoes will be reclassified as a starch 
  • It would upend the potato industry and confuse the public, the senators said 
  • READ MORE:  POTATOES can help you lose weight, scientists say

Senators are fighting back against rumblings that the US government will stop classifying potatoes as a vegetable. 

Fourteen lawmakers have written to the federal agencies who could influence the change, warning it would confuse Americans and cause chaos for supply chains.

It comes amid reports that the 2025 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is ‘considering changes to food groups,’ including a proposal to lump starchy vegetables in the same category as grains, which would put it in the same bracket as bread and rice.

The panel is tasked with providing independent, science-based advice to the Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) to help inform recommendations when it comes to diet.

The new guidelines will be rolled out next year. 

Lawmakers made their case in a letter to government officials, noting the many nutritional benefits of eating potatoes, which are packed with potassium and calcium

But the USDA has insisted the government ‘is not considering a change to the classification of potatoes.’

Still, on Thursday, Bipartisan senators from Colorado, Idaho, Maine, North Dakota, Oregon, Nebraska, Montana, Michigan, and Washington addressed their letter to HHS secretary Xavier Becerra and USDA head Tom Vilsack calling for any plans to be abandoned.

They said: ‘The scientific justification behind the assertion that potatoes are not vegetables is not strong, and there are documented nutritional benefits of potatoes.’

Potatoes provide crucial nutrients, including potassium, calcium, fiber, and vitamin B6, and reclassifying them as grains would change public perception of their health value and upend national dietary guidelines about healthy eating habits. 

Industry groups told Congress last year they’d heard murmurs about the move, which is believed to be due to the fact potatoes are high in carbohydrates and have a higher glycemic index than most vegetables.

Unlike a lot of grains, however, yellow potatoes contain more fiber, which slows down the spike in blood sugar that happens after eating sugars.

Possible reclassification has spooked the food industry and the lawmakers representing large populations of farmers who depend on growing and selling their crops for a living.

Senators said that the move would deprive the public of vital nutrients. It would require adjustments to nutritional guidelines, impacting recommendations for vegetable intake, and any changes to labeling that food companies would have to make may turn off consumers.

They added that federal nutrition programs, such as school lunches, could be impacted.

They said: ‘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.’

Potatoes are a very cost-effective food. A 10 lb bag at WalMart, for instance, would cost about $6. They’re also the most commonly eaten vegetable in the country, with every American consuming almost 49 lbs in 2019. But they’re not perfect.

The main a concern is about the way potatoes are prepared. 

While delicious, deep frying them or mashing them with a lot of butter and salt, those methods of preparation adds a considerable amount of calories, fat, and sodium. 

Boiling them or baking them is a wiser move nutritionally, because it preserves the high fiber content that counteracts possible spikes in blood sugar, promotes a feeling of fullness, which encourages weight loss. 

This is far from the first time the dietary guidelines changes have come until intense scrutiny. In 2011, the USDA proposed a limit of no more than one cup a week of starchy vegetables, which incensed the potato industry.

Potatoes are grown in roughly 30 states, though Idaho is the biggest producer. The US potato sector significantly boosts the country’s economy, contributing approximately $100.9 billion in 2021.

Lawmakers said: ‘It does not make any sense for your departments to reclassify potatoes as a grain.

‘We strongly urge you to avoid reclassifying potatoes as a grain or suggest grains and potatoes are interchangeable.’

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