For every rule, there must be at least one exception.


One of my rules is no reality television.  It really has not been difficult.  I’d just as much watch paint dry as observe people living on a tropical island, racing across some country, dancing or singing for some panel of judges.  One never knows how much is real and how much is staged, and non-disclosure agreements pretty much hide the truth.  Why invest one’s limited time in that?

The one exception I’ve made is Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, which is back on ABC on Tuesday nights for a second season.  I was drawn into this reality show because Huntington, WV did appear to embrace the diet changes promoted by the Food Revolution.

This season is going to be one of Jamie Oliver trying to make it on the mean streets of Los Angeles.  The Food Revolution is locked out of Los Angeles public schools, leaving Oliver working with parents on the streets, not school lunch workers in the cafeterias. 

The way the Food Revolution responded to the obstacles that LA’s school bureaucrats put up I thought was spot on.  Oliver attacked on two fronts that hurt, badly hurt, all the pious talk coming out of the LA schools about improving school lunch menus.  They are probably multi-billion dollar items in the national school lunch menu and they are not going to be going away because of new nutrition standards.

They are pink slime and sugar milk.

Pink slime is material made using an ammonia process.  It starts out with all the bits and fatty trimmings that once went to pet food or cooking oil businesses.  An industrial company located in North Sioux City, SD — Beef Products Inc. — is best known for making the pink slime.

On his first show of the season, Oliver demonstrated how pink slime could also be made by hand.  He acknowledged he does not know all the proper amounts to turn what is essentially garbage into the meat your local school district is buying for  lunches.  The important thing is that ammonia does not have to be listed as an ingredient in those fast-food hamburgers made from pink slime. 

It is true that all those previously discarded bits and pieces are more likely to be contaminated with deadly pathogens.  Ammonia, in turn, is an effective kill step.  

But for anyone who thinks the National School Lunch Program would never buy pink slime and feed it to your little child, may I remind you that just three years ago the program was buying half the beef served in schools from the Chino slaughterhouse known for processing “downer” cows.

Oliver’s second shot at LA public schools involves milk, namely the flavored sugary kind.  The United Kingdom and European Union allow only regular pasteurized white milk to be served in schools.

A cup of regular pasteurized white milk comes with 11 grams of sugar.  A cup of nonfat contains 12 grams. A cup of 2% chocolate or strawberry milk contains 26 grams of sugar.   Oliver wants the schools to forsake the flavored brands.

To illustrate his point, before a scant audience of LA parents, he demonstrated that one week’s worth of sugar served in the LA schools — some 57 tons — is enough to bury one of those big yellow school buses.

Last week, I tried to figure out where this whole school lunch thing is going by reading USDA’s 76-page filing of new nutritional standards and I came to the conclusion that sugar is not under attack.  The new school nutritional recommendations will allow flavored, sugary milk in schools.

No surprises on that one.  There are few more pampered bottoms in America than those found on the sugar lobby.  About $2 billion of our money goes annually to a handful of sugar barons.

So is Oliver right?  Are school lunch programs disposal outlets for pink slime and sugar?  Can anything be done about it?