Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, December 13, 2019


Page 1


Court of Appeal:

Districts Can’t Be Barred From Serving Processed Meats

Opinion Says Writ Correctly Denied Because No Statutory Provision Requires Ban


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The Los Angeles Unified School District can continue serving turkey hot dogs and pepperoni pizza, under a decision yesterday by Div. One of the First District Court of Appeal which rejected the contention of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine that processed meats should be barred as unhealthful.

The District of Columbia-based organization, comprised of about 12,000 doctors, sought a writ barring the Los Angeles Unified School District (“LAUSD”) and the Poway Unified School District (“PUSD”) in San Diego County “from serving processed meat to children due to the recognized association between eating processed meat (e.g., hotdogs, sausages, luncheon meat, bacon, and turkey bacon) and developing cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.”

The petition cited a 2015 study by the World Health Organization concluding that processed meats are carcinogenic.

Demurrers Sustained

San Diego Superior Court Judge Gregory W. Pollack sustained demurrers without leave to amend. He held that writ relief would be inappropriate because the school districts are under no “mandatory duty to identify processed meat as unhealthful or to discuss how and when processed meat would be reduced and/or phased out of school meals.”

The judgment of dismissal was affirmed yesterday in an opinion by Justice Richard Huffman.

He acknowledged that, as put forth by the Physicians Committee, various federal statutes require school districts to establish “wellness” standards in connection with the foods they serve, and that provisions of the Education Code dictate that the food be nutritional. However, Huffman said, “none of the statutes identified by the Physicians Committee requires schools to eliminate or reduce the amount of processed meats or to label or identify processed meats as unhealthy.”

2010 Legislation

Among the statutes he discussed was the federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Huffman wrote:

“Among other things, it gives the U.S. Department of Agriculture the authority to set science-based nutrition standards for food sold in schools….It also requires all participating local educational agencies to establish a local school wellness policy…and to permit parents, students, school food authority representatives, P.E. teachers, school health professionals, school administrators, the general public, and the school board to participate in the development, implementation, and periodic review of the wellness policy….

“This law establishes a ministerial duty to develop wellness policies….However, it does not detail what must be included in the wellness policies other than a directive to use federal guidelines, which presumably take into consideration science-based nutrition standards, as required by law….The law does not direct schools to address the reduction or elimination of processed meats.  The law does not mandate obedience without regard to a local educational agency’s own judgment.  It even includes a provision requiring local discretion…, making clear it does not create a mandatory duty to address the reduction or elimination of processed meat.”

The case is Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine v. Los Angeles Unified School District, 2019 S.O.S. 4207.

The Physicians Committee last year offered LAUSD and PUSD $5,000 each if it would remove processed meat from menus. The school districts opted to continue the litigation.

LAUSD—the second largest school district in the nation—has roughly 665,000 students. There are about 35,000 in the Poway district.


Copyright 2019, Metropolitan News Company