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Hot debate in the United States over whether the potato is a vegetable or a starchy food

2024-03-29 21:09:30

Attention, hot potato… In the United States, can the potato still be considered a vegetable, or will it have to fall into the category of starchy foods? Health authorities, the potato lobby and elected officials in Congress have been fighting over this hot topic for years.

Because this classification results, among other things, in the allocation of public aid. A commission was tasked with resolving the issue, provoking an outcry from senators from rural states, who underline in a letter to the ministers of Agriculture and Health, unveiled Thursday, that potatoes are “rich in potassium, calcium and vitamin C. The potato would in fact be a “vegetable”.

Public health issue

For supporters of a change in classification, this is a public health issue, with more than 40% of the adult American population suffering from obesity. According to data from the Department of Agriculture dating from 2019, Americans consume an average of 22 kg of potatoes per year, almost half in the form of frozen products, such as French fries…

It is generally the amount of starch (carbohydrates) present in the food that determines its classification as “vegetable” or “starchy”. The richness in carbohydrates of the potato should therefore make it a starchy food, but some oppose a strong presence of vitamin C, which could allow it to be classified among vegetables… And those who get wet the least believe that it should ultimately be classified as a starchy or “starchy-related” vegetable.

A change would have the effect of “confusing consumers”

A change in classification would have the effect of “confusing consumers, restaurateurs and producers”, warn the signatory elected officials, who represent the main potato growing states: Idaho, Maine, Oregon, etc.

Debates reminiscent of the Reagan administration’s attempt to classify ketchup as a vegetable in the meals distributed in American schools. The outcry led to the very rapid abandonment of this project.

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