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[Photograph: USDAGov on Flickr]

  • The USDA announced it will spend $4 million to fund EBT machines at farmers' markets across the country. Currently only about a quarter of the country's 7,100 markets have the equipment to accept EBT, or food stamps, from low-income community members. Kathleen Merrigan, deputy secretary of agriculture, believes that this funding will bring EBT machines to an additional 4,000 markets. EBT use at farmers markets has increased by 400% since 2008.
  • A new diet pill is being considered for approval by the FDA. An advisory committee voted to approve the drug this week, which is being pitched as a method to control America's high obesity rate. There is some concern that the drug could cause damage to heart valves. In a trial, users lost an overage of about 6% of their body weight in the first year. The FDA will vote on the drug by June 27th.
  • The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill last Thursday that would cut the budget for nutrition programs by $35.8 billion. The bill is meant as a budget deficit reducer, but has received much resistance from Democrats. Among the bill's measures are tightened eligibility requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the elimination of Meals on Wheels. President Obama has pledged to veto the bill in the unlikely scenario that is it approved by the Senate as well.
  • Jon Leibowitz, the Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, testified in Congress last week that initiatives to regulate food industry advertisements to children are not viable. Advertisement regulations were always meant to be voluntary, but would lose much of their power without any backing from this federal agency. The drive to limit what types of foods can be marketed to children was dampened by a recent study indicating that many industry jobs would be lost if new advertisement regulations were implemented.
  • The FDA announced plans to open new offices in several countries to deal with the rapidly increasing amount of food and drugs that are imported to the U.S. each year. As imports continue to rise (food imports have doubled since 2000), the agency is struggling to ensure the safety of all products entering the U.S. The FDA can only inspect about 3% of goods at their port of entry to the States. Therefore, global FDA offices are tasked with ensuring food safety standards at production sites worldwide.

About the Author: A student in Providence, Rhode Island, Leah Douglas loves learning about, talking about, reading about, and consuming food. Her work has also been featured in Rhode Island Monthly Magazine.

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