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WIC Program Needs Flexibility and Variety, IDFA Says

Jul 06, 2016

In comments filed last week with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, IDFA said dairy foods should continue to be a core component of the food packages available through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). Adding flexibility in container sizes and more variety in product choices would help women and children to meet key recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines and improve their nutrient intake, IDFA added.

Noting that nutrient-dense dairy products provide three of the four essential nutrients many Americans lack in their diets, IDFA recommended several changes to encourage and support dairy consumption:

  • Reduced-fat milk should be allowed in food packages for women and older children.
  • Allowing more container sizes, particularly for yogurt, would help participants to take advantage of a wider array of dairy options.
  • Yogurt should be included for infants from 6 months to 1 year of age.
  • More forms of cheese, such as slices, shreds and sticks, should be made available.

Reduced-fat Milk

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.

“Overall, the dairy group provides excellent nutrient value and is available in many flavors, container sizes and forms to meet a wide variety of consumers’ preferences,” IDFA said in the comments. “However, there are situations where a particular milk or yogurt type is not broadly available.”

As an example, IDFA noted that Hispanics as a group tend to purchase more whole and reduced-fat milk. That means it may be difficult for WIC participants to find low-fat or fat-free milk in their neighborhood stores.

“We have concerns that the final rule’s removal of reduced-fat milk as an option for women and older children from the WIC food packages may have reduced milk consumption by WIC participants,” IDFA said.

IDFA also called for non-nutritive sweeteners to be allowed in the food packages, saying they are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration for safety and they provide sweetness without adding extra calories.

For more information, contact Michelle Matto, IDFA’s labeling and nutrition consultant, at

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