Ban sugary soda from US food stamps- food expert

* Caloric soda “a huge part” of US obesity-Paarlberg

* Do food stamps affect obesity rate? asks panel chief

* Soda bottlers say they reduced calories 21 percent

By Charles Abbott

WASHINGTON, May 13 (BestGrowthStock) – Congress should ban sugary
sodas from the $58 billion-a-year U.S. food stamp program as a
step to combat the obesity crisis, the House Agriculture
Committee was told on Thursday.

Wellesley College professor and food expert Rob Paarlberg
suggested the ban during a hearing to review the 2008 farm law,
which includes food stamps as well as crop subsidies. Food
stamps help low-income people buy food. One in eight Americans
receives food stamps.

The anti-hunger program accounts for 40 percent of
Agriculture Department spending and outweighs crop subsidy and
land stewardship spending of $10 billion this year.

“I would argue caloric soda should be made ineligible for
purchase under SNAP, like tobacco and alcohol,” said Paarlberg,
using the new name for food stamps, the Supplemental Nutrition
Assistance Program. He later said sugary sodas are “a huge part
of the obesity problem.”

Committee chairman Collin Peterson told reporters, “It
clearly is something we need to look at.”

“We need to look at what effect, if any, we’re having on
the obesity situation. Is the SNAP program contributing to
that?” said Peterson. “That’s the first question, before we
talk anything about money.”

Lawmakers usually increase funding for public nutrition as
part of the so-called farm bills written every few years.

First Lady Michelle Obama unveiled a 70-point plan on
Tuesday to reduce childhood obesity rates within a generation.
The report called for larger enrollment in public nutrition
programs, putting healthier foods in school meals and
encouraging Americans to eat more fruits and vegetables.

The report called for an analysis of the impact of local
sales taxes on consumption of “less healthy energy-dense
foods.”

Paarlberg, author of “Food Politics” and other books on
food policy, said banning caloric sodas from purchase with food
stamps would not hurt poor people because there would be no
change in benefit levels. “Caloric sodas are not food,” he
said.

The American Beverage Association, a trade group whose
members include Coca-Cola Co (KO.N: ), Pepsico Inc (PEP.N: ) and Dr
Pepper Snapple Group (DPS.N: ) , said “there is nothing unique
about soft drinks when it comes to obesity” so it would be
unfair to single out soft drinks.

Bottlers say Americans consume one-fifth fewer calories
from soft drinks because of a shift to zero- and low-calorie
drinks and introduction of smaller-size bottles and cans.

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(Reporting by Charles Abbott; Editing by Rebekah Kebede)

Ban sugary soda from US food stamps- food expert