USDA Issues Proposed Regulations on SNAP Program and Dietary Guidelines

The Obama Administration released new advice about what Americans should eat to stay healthy, as well as a proposed regulation related to the use of photo identification requirements on Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards used for the redemption of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (formerly known as food stamps).

SNAP Program
 
The Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released a proposed rule that establishes limits on states' ability to require a photograph of one or more members of a beneficiary's household on the EBT cards that SNAP beneficiaries use to redeem their SNAP benefits. 
 
Currently, states are permitted to require such a photograph on EBT cards. However, other members of a beneficiary's household beyond the individual(s) whose picture appears on the card are also permitted to use such cards to redeem benefits. This has led to "significant legal and operational complexities," according to USDA, largely due to the fact that retailers may mistakenly reject purchases if the purchaser's face does not match the photograph on the card.
 
To mitigate this confusion, the proposed rule requires states to submit an implementation plan to USDA to ensure that it will comply with federal regulations on how the photographic identification requirement is implemented.  USDA would have to approve a state's plan before the state could issue photo EBT cards. (States that already have photo requirements, including Maine and Massachusetts, could continue this requirement.) This plan is required to, among other things, entail outreach to retailers that redeem SNAP benefits to ensure they are aware of the requirements associated with photo EBT cards. 
 
Retailers must accept an EBT card if the customer enters a proper PIN, regardless of whether the customer is pictured on the EBT card. To reduce SNAP fraud, retailers would be permitted to deny a sale in certain circumstances, such as when consumers use three or more EBT cards for a single purchase. 
 
Additional information about the proposed rule is available here. 
 
In the coming weeks, the Department of Agriculture is expected to propose a new rule that would require any retailer that redeems SNAP benefits to offer for sale a larger number of "healthy" food items. More information on that proposal is available here. It is likely that the dietary guidelines released last week will inform that rulemaking.  
 
Dietary Guidelines
 
The federal dietary guidelines, which are updated every five years, are important because of their impact on how the food industry does business and how Americans eat. The report determines the content of school meals and the aims of food assistance programs, for example. It also informs labeling and advertising of food products by companies, and the advice given by heath professionals.
 
Given the role of foodservice in the travel plaza and truckstop industry, it is important for NATSO members to be aware of the policy debates surrounding food and nutrition.
 
The 2015 update to the dietary guidelines for the first time suggests limits on how much added sugar people consume. This will assist the FDA in moving forward on a proposal to mandate added sugar labeling on the Nutrition Facts panels that consumers see on billions of food product packaging. Additionally, the guidelines continue to encourage people to eat more fruits, vegetables, nuts, seafood and whole grains and say lean meat is part of a healthy diet. Beyond this, the guidelines largely repeat the same health advice to a country plagued by obesity and other diet-related diseases.
 
 

 

 

 

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David Fialkov

David Fialkov is the Vice President of Government Relations, as well as the Legislative and Regulatory Counsel, at NATSO. In this capacity, Mr. Fialkov direct's NATSO's legislative, regulatory, and legal strategy on a range of issues, including transportation, energy and fuels, labor, data security, and taxes. Mr. Fialkov also oversees NATSO's political engagement program, including individualized legal and political counsel to member companies. Prior to joining NATSO, Mr. Fialkov was the senior associate in the Government Affairs and Public Policy practice at the law firm of Steptoe and Johnson in Washington, D.C. At Steptoe, Mr. Fialkov advised clients on legislative, regulatory, and political issues, as well as legal concerns. His primary clients included trade associations representing the motor fuel wholesale and retail industries, including the National Association of Convenience Stores and the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America. Mr. Fialkov's focus was not only on the motor fuels business, but also the litany of other issues that retailers confront, including labor matters, foodservice issues, healthcare and employment issues, tax matters and data security. Prior to joining Steptoe, Mr. Fialkov graduated with honors from George Washington University Law School. He received his B.S. Summa cum laude with highest honors from Clark University in Worcester, MA. He lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife Allison and daughter Lilah. More
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