The U. S. Department of Agriculture today announced final changes to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) that are designed to improve the nutrition and health of the nation’s low-income pregnant women, new mothers, infants and young children. Marking a victory for IDFA and its members, the changes include increased access to low-fat dairy, allowing yogurt as a partial milk substitute.
The interim rule was issued in 2007 and implemented the following year, but USDA continued to take comments through February 2010. At that time, IDFA submitted additional comments, asking the department to reconsider its previous request to include yogurt as an authorized partial substitute for fluid milk. IDFA also worked with food industry coalitions to advocate on the Hill and within USDA for the yogurt substitution.
“IDFA is pleased that USDA has continued to align the WIC program with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recognize yogurt as ‘an appropriate equivalent milk product’ consumers can choose to obtain the recommended two-to-three servings of dairy each day,” said Clay Hough, IDFA senior group vice president. “In fact, a pilot study conducted by IDFA member General Mills and several other organizations has shown that adding yogurt to the WIC program can help to increase dairy consumption and improve nutrient intake among participants.”
In addition to the yogurt substitution, USDA will no longer require a medical waiver for soy milk substitution. The rule also encourages companies to reformulate products to use lower levels of sodium.
Today’s announcement marks the completion of the first comprehensive revisions to the WIC food packages since 1980. The final rule will go into effect 60 days after publication, probably March 4, 2014, but the yogurt provision can be implemented no earlier than April 1, 2015.