(Sept. 22) In a process that could take years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Sept. 15 issued an invitation for comments on possible changes to the Women, Infants and Children food package.

The issue is highly charged because each food industry group wants to maintain or increase its share of the WIC package, said Margo Wootan, nutrition director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Washington, D.C.

Wootan said the center would like to replace some of the caloric and fat-dense foods such as cheese with other options.

MORE FRUITS AND VEGETABLES

“It does make sense to have more fruits and vegetables in the package, and that will mean having less of other foods, like fatty cheese,” she said.

In the Sept. 15 Federal Register notice, the USDA said the WIC food packages were last revised in 1980.

“While WIC has been successful in many areas, obesity and inappropriate dietary patterns have become significant concerns for many in WIC’s target population,” the Federal Register notice read.

REVIEW OF COMMENTS

The USDA said it plans to enlist independent technical experts at the Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board to review science and comments submitted in response to the notice. The Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board will develop recommendations on revising the WIC food packages for the department’s consideration.

The USDA will use comments received through the notice and Food and Nutrition Board recommendations to develop a proposed rule.

Comments must be postmarked by Dec. 15 and should be sent to Patricia Daniels, Director, Supplemental Food Programs Division, Food and Nutrition Service, USDA, 3101 Park Center Drive, Room 520, Alexandria, VA 22302.