'Top Chef' judge: GOP should be 'ashamed' of nutrition fight


House Republicans pressing to roll back first lady Michelle Obama’s nutrition standards should be “ashamed,” celebrity chef Tom Colicchio told reporters Wednesday, on the eve of a critical committee markup.

Colicchio, head judge on Bravo’s "Top Chef," joined a group of lawmakers and healthy food advocates in decrying GOP efforts to scale back new standards put in place by the administration as part of the first lady’s "Let’s Move" initiative to combat childhood obesity. 

“They should really be ashamed of themselves,” Colicchio said. “I thought we were making progress.” 

The ire is directed at a new GOP spending bill that critics, including Michelle Obama, say would erode new nutrition standards imposed under the Obama-backed 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The law requires schools with lunch programs that are federally subsidized under the National School Lunch Program to adhere to new, stricter nutrition guidelines.

The rules, which began to go into effect in 2012, are to be followed with stronger sodium and whole-grain rules in the years to come.

But the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday is expected to approve a 2015 spending bill for the Agriculture Department requiring that it waive nutrition standards for school programs that have lost money over six months.

Republicans are also pressing for a provision prohibiting the Obama administration from excluding white potatoes from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).

Lawmakers from potato-growing states expressed outrage at the administration’s decision last year to keep the potato off the list of items people could buy via the federal nutrition program.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), a member of the committee, stressed that the white potato is already “the most consumed vegetable in America, said Republicans are putting politics ahead of nutrition.

“This is the same kind if thinking in Congress that got called pizza a vegetable,” DeLauro said. “Pizza is not a vegetable, and I know something about pizza.”

DeLauro added that the new student lunch standards have been achieved at more than 90 percent of schools around the country. She said Democrats would be ready with amendments to block provisions of the bill that weaken federal nutrition programs, undermine menu labeling rules or allow industry carve-outs.