Canned fruit and veg part of updated WIC food packages
interim rule to revise the contents of food packages provided to
low-income women and children to include fruit, vegetables and
Fruits and vegetables in all forms - canned, fresh and frozen - as well as whole grains will now be part of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) in the first change made in nearly three decades. The program, which provides low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women and infants and children up to the age of five with a monthly allotment for the purchase of nutritious supplemental foods, will prove a boost for the canned food sector. "We applaud the USDA for recognizing that canned foods play an important role in helping women and children get the nutrition they need," said Rich Tavoletti, executive director of the Canned Food Alliance (CFA). "Canned food makes healthful eating easy and accessible for everyone, everywhere, every day." The ruling also allows specific types of canned beans and peas as a substitute for dry, mature beans and peas. Canned light tuna will continue to be allowed and the new regulations include a variety of other canned fish as approved alternatives. Baby foods for infants six to 12 months will also now be included, along with soy-based beverages and tofu as milk alternatives. For the first time, whole wheat bread or other grain options such as soft corn tortillas to adapt to the cultural diversity within the WIC population. Acting Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Conner said: "The addition of these foods better reflect the needs of over 8 million low-income mothers and children in the WIC program." State agencies must implement the provisions no later than August 5 2009. The interim final rule comment period ends on February 1 2010, which is 180 days after the implementation deadline. USDA will issue a final rule after review and analysis of public comments. The CFA said it will continue to work with states to ensure they provide the participants with flexibility and options to select canned foods as part of the new packages. The revisions align the WIC food packages with the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and infant feeding practice guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The updates follow recommendations made by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. WIC food packages were first designed in 1974 to supplement participants diets with foods rich in five nutrients that were lacking in the diets on the WIC target population. These were vitamins A and C, calcium, iron and protein. The program also provides nutrition education and referrals to health and social services. It received a federal investment of over $5bn in 2006.