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Thursday, February 14, 2013

California bill would 'unsweeten' EBT cards

On Jan. 28, 2013, California State Senator Michael J. Rubio, D-16th District, introduced a bill that would ban state food stamp recipients from using electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards to purchase sugar-sweetened beverages. The bill is designed to combat the epidemic of obesity in California.

SB 134 would direct California's State Department of Social Services to exclude sugar-sweetened beverages containing more than 10 calories per cup from the list of allowable food items that can be purchased by CalFresh benefit recipients using the EBT cards. CalFresh is the state's food stamp program funded by the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). CalFresh benefits are distributed on a county-by-county basis.

The bill stated that existing law already restricts CalFresh recipients from making certain purchases with the EBT cards, including alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, cat litter and hot foods. Research indicates that California's SNAP participants are more likely to be obese than non-SNAP participants, according to the bill. Soda consumption among participants is also significantly higher than among nonparticipants, the bill added.

In the United States, two-thirds of adults and nearly one third of children are reportedly overweight or obese. The bill cited reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that 24.8 percent of Californians are obese. "Obesity presents a major financial burden to the state because it is associated with common chronic conditions, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer," the bill said. "The 'obesogenic' elements of American society must be addressed to improve both the public and fiscal health of the nation." end of article

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