WIC program changes continue to advance

by Josh Sosland
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WASHINGTON — Proposed changes in the Women, Infants and Children supplemental nutrition program are under final consideration by the Office of Management and Budget. The O.M.B. notification indicates that the largest changes in the WIC program food packages are on track.

Of interest to grain-based foods is the inclusion of whole grains in the program, representing the first time grain-based foods would be incorporated in WIC.

"The addition of whole grain breads to the WIC program will introduce millions of new consumers for a first time to the benefits of high fiber whole grain breads," the Independent Bakers Association said this week. The I.B.A. has been active in urging the incorporation of bread into the WIC program.

WIC serves 8 million low-income pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding women, and infants and children up to five years old. The program targets a segment of the population most at risk nutritionally.

According to I.B.A., the 90-day review by the O.M.B. could be shortened to allow final rule final rule publication before the end of September. Once the review is completed, there will be a 30-day period for final comment, followed by issuance of the final rule. States will have up to 24 months to adopt the final rule.

The I.B.A. and others in grain-based foods have advocated for changes in the proposed WIC rule. In particular, an 8-gram of whole grains per serving threshold has been sought, rather than the 16 grams proposed.

"The eight grams of whole grain ingredient per label serving standard will provide taste and texture to the bread, making the product more enjoyable to the consumer and thus encouraging further consumption," the I.B.A. said.

The group also said a requirement of a 32-oz loaf was "too rigid," advocating instead for a 24-oz loaf.

"The U.S. Department of Agriculture must also consider the need to lessen the total whole grain requirements for WIC eligible breads," said John Popp, I.B.A. chairman. "Consumers need to enjoy foods in the program or they will not incorporate them into their long-term diets."

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