HHS & USDA Jointly Confirm: Potatoes Are A Vegetable, Not a Grain

HHS and USDA sent a letter to Senator Collins confirming that both agencies will keep the potato classified as a vegetable

Published online: May 22, 2024 Articles
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Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Susan Collins announced that she received a joint letter from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Thomas Vilsack confirming that both HHS and USDA will officially support keeping potatoes classified as a vegetable, and not a grain.  

In their letter, the Secretaries wrote, “Let us assure you that there is no intent and no effort underway to reclassify potatoes as a grain, nor are there analyses singling out potatoes.”

“I am pleased DHHS followed USDA’s lead and recognized reality: potatoes are a vegetable, not a grain,” said Senator Collins. “The reclassification of potatoes would have sent a false message to the public that USDA and DHHS believe that potatoes are not healthy. The fact is, when prepared properly, the potato is a wonderfully nutritious food that is affordable, easy to transport, has a long storage life, and can be used in a wide array of recipes.”

This joint letter followed a May 1st call Senator Collins received from Secretary Vilsack, who told her personally that the USDA had no intention of reclassifying potatoes and recognized that potatoes are, in fact, a vegetable.

Senator Collins led a bipartisan March 28th letter with Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) opposing any reclassification of potatoes as a grain instead of a vegetable, or including recommendations that potatoes and grains are interchangeable as changes to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) are being considered. The USDA shares jurisdiction over the DGAs process with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS).

Senator Collins has been an unwavering supporter of Maine’s potato industry throughout her Senate service. For example, in October of 2011, President Obama’s USDA proposed a rule that would have banned white potatoes from the national school breakfast and limited its use in the lunch programs. In response, Senator Collins and Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) introduced an amendment that prohibited the rule. It passed unanimously. Senator Collins continues to secure language annually in the Agriculture appropriation bill that prevents USDA from imposing limitations on potatoes in the school breakfast and lunch program.

Here are nutritional facts about the white potato:

  • Potatoes have more potassium than bananas, a food commonly associated with this nutrient.
  • Potatoes are cholesterol-free, fat-free, and sodium-free, and can be served in countless healthy ways.
  • A medium baked potato contains 15 percent of the daily recommended value of dietary fiber, 27 percent of the daily recommended value for vitamin B6, and 28 percent of the daily recommended value of Vitamin C.