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A parent group is criticizing a Fairfax County Public Schools decision to again begin serving a hamburger patty that includes 26 ingredients.

In spring 2012, the school system had made the switch to a 100 percent beef burger in an effort to offer healthier options.

Ingredients of the Don Lee Farms hamburger patties:

Ground beef (not more than 20% fat), water, texturized vegetable protein product (soy flour, caramel color, zinc oxide, niacinamide, ferrous sulfate, copper gluconate, vitamin A palmitate, calcium pentothenate, thaimine mononitrate {B1}, pyridoxine hydrocholoride {B6}, riboflavin {B2}, cyanocobalamin {B12}), seasoning (hydrolyzed soy protein, dry onion, malodextrin, spice, sugar, salt, torula yeast, yeast extract, natural flavor, caramel color, disodium inosinate), autolyzed yeast, potassium chloride.

The parent group Real Food For Kids had often cited the burger as an example of the sort of additive-laden products they wanted to see removed from school menus.

President JoAnne Hammermaster said the group had publicly praised FCPS Food and Nutrition Services when it replaced the burger with a 100 percent beef burger.

It takes extensive research for Food and Nutrition Services to identify options that meet federal school lunch requirements and are affordable and feasible to prepare and serve on a massive scale, Hammermaster said, and Real Food For Kids is disappointed to see that research go out the window.

“You go through all of that to find a good product … and then it quietly slips back in,” she said.

While some of the 26 ingredients are things like vitamins, Hammermaster said, the fact that vitamins need to be added back in to the food to meet nutrition requirements are an indication that it is a highly processed product.

Food and Nutrition Services switched back to the old brand of burger patties this year due to complaints from students, said FCPS spokesman John Torre.

“They were surprised by the negative comments received from students,” he said.

The school food service typically holds taste-testing sessions with students before new products are introduced.

Food and Nutrition Services is continuing to search for a different brand of 100 percent beef hamburger patty that will be acceptable to students, Torre said.

Although cost was not cited as a factor, the burger patties currently being served, from Don Lee Farms, are slightly cheaper, at 32 cents per patty. The 100 percent beef ones from Maid Rite were 39 cents per patty.

Hammermaster said Real Food For Kids would rather see the burger disappear from school menus altogether, rather than serving the additive-laden burger.

“We hope that if they make changes like this down the road they communicate with all parents, or at least with us so we know what is happening,” Hammermaster said.

kschumitz@fairfaxtimes.com