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Studies: Sugary drink consumption stable, SNAP soda purchases detailed

A decline in American consumption of sugary drinks has stalled amidst concerns that, while soda consumption has dropped, consumers are substituting other sweetened beverages, The Washington Post reports in a study based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics.

Meanwhile, a little-noticed Agriculture Department study comparing grocery store purchases by beneficiaries of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and non-SNAP households in 2011 showed that:

Sweetened beverages ranked second in spending in SNAP households and fifth in non-SNAP households.

Vegetables ranked third in SNAP households and second in non-SNAP households.

Prepared desserts ranked fifth in SNAP households and sixth in non-SNAP households.

Fruits ranked eighth in SNAP households and fourth in non-SNAP households.

In its analysis of the data, USDA grouped several categories together and reached the following conclusions:

"There were no major differences in the expenditure patterns of SNAP and non-SNAP households, no matter how the data were categorized. Similar to most American households:

About 40 cents of every dollar of food expenditures by SNAP households was spent on basic items such as meat, fruits, vegetables, milk, eggs and bread.

Another 20 cents out of every dollar was spent on sweetened beverages, desserts, salty snacks, candy and sugar.

The remaining 40 cents were spent on a variety of items such as cereal, prepared foods, dairy products, rice and beans.

The top 10 summary categories and the top seven commodities by expenditure were the same for SNAP and non-SNAP households, although ranked in slightly different orders."

USDA has joined with farm groups and food retailers in opposing any restrictions on what participants in the SNAP program can buy with their benefits. At present they are allowed to buy any food item except hot prepared foods.