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ADA supports USDA proposal to modernize WIC

Proposal would reduce federal program’s reliance on juice

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The ADA is supporting a new proposal to modernize the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, known as WIC, that includes reducing the program’s reliance on juice as a nutrient delivery method.

According to the proposal, the U.S. Department of Agriculture seeks to better align the nutrition content of WIC packages with the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the science-based recommendations of a 2017 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

In comments filed Feb. 21 to the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, ADA President George R. Shepley, D.D.S., and Executive Director Raymond A. Cohlmia, D.D.S., called the proposal “an important step” to ending diet-related tooth decay.

WIC provides a monthly allowance for eligible low-income participants to purchase certain nutrition-rich foods from authorized retailers. The USDA is proposing to reduce — but not entirely eliminate — the program’s reliance on juice as a nutrient delivery method by doing the following:

  • Retaining the current juice exclusion for children under 12 months.
  • Reducing the eligible monthly juice allowance forchildren ages 1-4 years, from 128 ounces (around 4.3 ounces per day) to 64 fluid ounces per month (around 2 ounces per day).
  • Reducing the eligible monthly juice allowance for pregnant and breastfeeding women from 144 ounces (around 4.8 ounces per day) to 64 fluid ounces per month (around 2 ounces per day).
  • Eliminating the juice allowance for postpartum participants, who have lower caloric needs relative to those who are pregnant and lactating.
  • Introducing a $3 cash-value voucher to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables instead of juice.

“From a dental perspective, no amount of sugar can be consumed without increasing the risk for tooth decay,” Drs. Shepley and Cohlmia wrote. “Sugar increases the build-up of plaque (a sticky, colorless, bacterial film), which weakens enamel and can potentially form a cavity. This applies regardless of whether the sugar is natural or added.”

“At the same time, we recognize that it is neither practical nor possible to remove all sugary foods from the human diet. It is also not practical to classify some foods and beverages as more or less harmful to oral health than others. Even milk has a measurable amount of sugar. It is practical and possible, however, to encourage good eating habits, which would necessarily include limiting sugar consumption.”

The ADA also noted proposal is consistent with prior beverage consumption recommendations.

Follow all of the ADA’s advocacy issues at ADA.org/Advocacy


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