Prehn, chairman of United Cranberry Growers Cooperative, a collective of 85 growers in Massachusetts, Oregon and Wisconsin in the U.S. and the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Quebec, was among cranberry honchos attending the recent inaugural meeting of the Congressional Cranberry Caucus on Capitol Hill. Prehn and others are hoping the bipartisan caucus led by Reps. Reid Ribble, R-Wis., and Bill Keating, D-Mass., and Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Scott Brown, R-Mass., can help persuade agriculture officials to make an exception for cranberry products in its nutrition standards for added-sugar products.
"Given the beneficial and scientifically proven health properties of cranberries, we believe there is a need to establish clear standards that recognize cranberries as a part of a healthy diet," the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The lawmakers sent a similar letter to the first lady, pointing out cranberries "contribute to whole body health, particularly urinary-tract health and the potential to fight cancer and other diseases." At stake is exclusion from an estimated $2.3 billion school vending-machine business and an image that could have a negative impact on the marketing of cranberry products worldwide, particularly cranberry juice cocktail, industry officials say.