Cary Frye, IDFA vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs, was one of several panelists who participated in a workshop and public comments session last week in Irvine, Calif., to help inform the National Academy of Medicine committee charged with reviewing food packages for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program. Frye told committee members that increasing dairy options for WIC participants would help women and children to meet key recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines and improve their nutrient intake.
Current food packages include milk for women and children, with yogurt and cheese as optional substitutes for milk. But in 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a final rule that limited the milk choices for women and children two years and older to low-fat or fat-free milk.
Many Prefer Reduced-Fat Milk
Unfortunately, the government’s advice to shift to low-fat and nonfat milk doesn’t match the preference of American consumers for higher fat milk. “In 2013, whole milk and reduced-fat, or 2% milk, represented almost two-thirds of milk consumption, while low-fat, or 1%, and fat-free milk only accounted for 31 percent of fluid milk consumption,” Frye said. Limiting participants to milk choices preferred by only one-third of the population could lower redemption and consumption of fluid milk and cause children and women in the program to lose the critical nutrients that milk can provide.
To demonstrate her point, Frye used electronic benefit transfer data on milk redemption in Texas, a large and culturally diverse state. She said the redemption data showed that there’s a strong correlation between eliminating reduced-fat milk from federal food packages and the sharp drop in milk consumption among WIC participants in the state.
“It is critical for the committee to consider allowing milk choices for WIC participants that reflect consumer preferences. It should be easier for participants to request 2% milk,” she concluded. “IDFA recommends that WIC participants should be able to receive reduced-fat milk as a fluid milk option for themselves and their children over two years of age.”
Yogurt and Cheese
In her oral comments, Frye discussed the roles of yogurt and cheese in the WIC food packages, noting that they are nutrient rich and naturally low in lactose. She said the program should continue to allow milk to be swapped for a variety of cheeses, and she asked for changes that would to allow participants to buy yogurt in smaller container sizes and more varieties and to swap one quart of milk for up to 32 ounces of yogurt, rather than limiting the purchase to a single 32-ounce size package.
For more information, contact Frye at firstname.lastname@example.org.