Washington, DC - American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown issued the following statement on Congress’ FY 2019 agriculture appropriations bills:

“It is frustrating to see that Congress’ FY2019 agriculture appropriations bills put some important food and nutrition initiatives in jeopardy, both of which are critical to improving public health.

Both bills include language that would require the U.S. Department of Agriculture to reopen part of the requirements that guide Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) retailers on what foods to put on their shelves and redefine what the term “variety” means. While it may appear that they are just playing with words, this rider could potentially mean that more unhealthy foods could qualify as staple foods for SNAP participants.

Public health takes another blow in the sodium category. A rider in both the House and Senate bills prohibits the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) voluntary targets to reduce sodium for all food products until an update of the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) is completed. DRI is the general term for a set of reference values used by the federal government to plan and assess nutrient intakes of healthy people. The association supports an updated DRI but views this rider as nothing more than a delaying tactic. While the legislation does not permanently prevent the targets from moving forward, the association will still closely monitor this situation to ensure that there is no further damage to these targets.

Another vital nutrition initiative that could be unnecessarily delayed under the House and Senate’s agriculture appropriations bill is the FDA’s Nutrition Facts Labels. A rider included in that bill would stop the FDA from moving forward with revised versions of these labels until it’s determined if single ingredient foods like honey and maple syrup should be labeled as containing added sugars. Congress should not be legislating this process. Right now, the FDA is accepting comments on the single ingredient issue from the various stakeholders involved. Congress needs to allow that process to play out.

We urge Congress to keep the riders referenced above out of the final legislation so the excellent progress we’ve made continues to benefit the public health.”