USA- Consumer Reports, a non profit consumer watchdog group, is currently raising concerns about the suitability of Lunchables, a popular meal kit marketed towards kids, to be included on school menus.

 The group is urging the USDA to remove it as an option, citing troubling levels of lead and sodium in the prepackaged boxes of deli meat, cheese, and crackers.

According to Consumer Reports’ statement, Lunchables and similar lunch and snack kits from other manufacturers were tested, revealing cause for concern due to their highly processed nature.

Amy Keating, a registered dietitian at CR, expressed worry over the products, highlighting the link between regularly consuming processed meat and an increased risk of certain cancers.

“They’re highly processed, and regularly eating processed meat, a main ingredient in many of these products, has been linked to increased risk of some cancers,” she claimed.

While none of the kits exceeded legal or regulatory limits, CR found that five out of twelve tested products would expose someone to 50% or more of California’s maximum allowable amount of lead or cadmium, which are heavy metals known to cause developmental issues in children. 

 For example, a 3.2-ounce Turkey and Cheddar Cracker Stackers Lunchables contained 74% of California’s allowed level for lead and 49% of the daily recommended sodium for 4- to 8-year-olds.

Eric Boring, a CR chemist who led the testing, emphasized that despite providing only about 15% of the daily calories an average 8-year-old requires, these Lunchables products bring children close to the daily maximum limit for lead. 

Consumer Reports is adamant that these products should not be regularly consumed and should not be considered a healthy option for school lunches – they are petitioning the U.S. Department of Agriculture to remove Kraft Heinz products from the National School Lunch Program, with their petition garnering nearly 15,000 signatures.

In response, a spokesperson for Kraft Heinz defended the company’s 35-year-old Lunchables brand, stating that many of their products are a good source of protein and nutrients through meats and cheeses. 

They also mentioned steps taken to improve the nutrition profile of Lunchables, such as introducing Lunchables with Fresh Fruit in partnership with Fresh Del Monte and reducing the sodium content in all Lunchables crackers by 26%.

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