Although the interim rule revising the federal food package for women and children was issued in 2007 and implemented last October, the U.S. Department of Agriculture continued to take comments up until this week. IDFA submitted additional comments on February 1, asking the department to reconsider its previous request to include yogurt as an authorized partial substitute for fluid milk.
The rule changed the food packages available to participants in the Special Supplementary Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), a federal program that provides nutritious foods to low-income pregnant and postpartum women, infants and children who are at nutritional risk. The changes are intended to provide a more diverse and nutritionally balanced package of foods and to align more closely with the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
IDFA supports USDA's efforts to align the WIC program with the Guidelines. In the comments, IDFA pointed out that the Guidelines recognize yogurt as "an appropriate equivalent milk product" consumers can choose to obtain the recommended two-to-three servings of dairy each day. Yogurt also provides significant amounts of potassium and calcium, two of the priority nutrients identified by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
"IDFA was greatly disappointed to see that the interim rule did not follow the Institute of Medicine's recommendation to include limited amounts of yogurt, a highly nutritious dairy food, as an allowable substitute for milk," the comments stated. "We believe this tentative decision does not consider the nutrition science, public health concerns and cultural eating patterns as recommended to the Secretary by the IOM and should be reconsidered."
In the comments, IDFA argued that yogurt can provide much-needed nutrients to many ethnic groups that historically don't drink much fluid milk. Asian women, for example, show a marked preference for yogurt over fluid milk, and others, who may avoid milk because they are sensitive to lactose, can consume yogurt without discomfort.
The comments also highlighted the positive results from a new pilot study that reviewed the impact of adding yogurt to the food packages for women. The study, conducted by IDFA member General Mills and several other organizations, gave vouchers for yogurt to WIC clients along with information on how to use yogurt in meals and which retail outlets would accept the vouchers. The results, scheduled to be published in May, show that adding yogurt would help to increase dairy consumption and improve nutrient intake among WIC participants.
Read the comments here.
For background on the interim rule, members may login below to read the IDFA Hotline, "USDA Releases Final Changes to WIC Food Packages."
For more information, contact Michelle Matto, IDFA assistant director of nutrition and regulatory affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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