A Missouri lawmaker wants to crack down on potential food stamp fraud by banning anyone from using SNAP benefits to purchase energy drinks.
Missouri State Representative Keith English, a Democrat out of St. Louis, MO, and Republican co-sponsor Ron Hicks want to make the change.
English said he proposed the bill after an out-of-state lawmaker told him some food stamp recipients often buy cases of energy drinks and resell them for cash. English said that's fraud and it must be stopped. The lawmaker said he also proposed the bill, House Bill 1283, because of health concerns surrounding the caffeinated drinks.
In the bill, energy drinks are defined as any beverage with at least 65 milligrams of caffeine per eight fluid ounces that is advertised as being specifically designed to provide "metabolic stimulation" or increase the consumer's "mental or physical energy."
"I really didn't know they could buy them on food stamps," said Edward Bowman, a grocery shopper.
Bowman was surprised to hear that food stamps could be used to buy the drinks and said he'd be happy to see a change.
"I think it's a great thing. I'd like to see them stop selling energy drinks completely, especially to the young people," he said.
Shopper Ann Hill, who volunteers at a food pantry, disagrees with the proposed changes.
"I'm kind of the person who believes if you get food stamps, get whatever you need. If they need an energy drink, then they should be able to go ahead and buy an energy drink," she said.
Federal regulations for SNAP benefits allow people to buy energy drink if they have a nutrition facts label, but don't allow them to buy energy drinks that have a supplement facts label.
The proposed bill in Missouri is getting support from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. English said it already has 30 co-sponsors.
The Missouri Department of Social Services said they don't typically comment on pending legislation, but offered this written statement:
"The federal government, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Services, determines what food items are eligible. Questions regarding eligible food items should be directed to the federal government, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Services.
The Department of Social Services is devoted to ensuring the integrity of welfare programs in our state and follows up on all reports of fraud or misuse. If you suspect misuse or fraud, you are encouraged to report it. Call 1-877-770-8055 or send an email to DLS.ReportFraud@dss.mo.gov."
Right now, according to the USDA, households can use SNAP benefits to buy:
Foods for the household to eat, such as:
breads and cereals;
fruits and vegetables;
meats, fish and poultry; and
Seeds and plants which produce food for the household to eat.
In some areas, restaurants can be authorized to accept SNAP benefits from qualified homeless, elderly or disabled people in exchange for low-cost meals.
Households cannot use SNAP benefits to buy:
Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco
Any nonfood items, such as:
soaps, paper products
Vitamins and medicines
Food that will be eaten in the store
Click here for information about the caffeine content in drinks.
Copyright 2014 KCTV (Meredith Corp.). All rights reserved.
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