Some food stamp recipients use EBT cards for energy drinks - FOX Carolina 21

Some food stamp recipients use EBT cards for energy drinks

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A look at supplement and nutrition fact labels on energy drinks. (File/FOX Carolina) A look at supplement and nutrition fact labels on energy drinks. (File/FOX Carolina)

Customers are cashing in and popping the tabs on energy drinks. But some who swipe their EBT cards as part of the food stamp program want to know who's keeping tabs on what's going in the bag.

"You should be able to purchase some hot food on the EBT or SNAP program," Annie Gordon said.

She qualified for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or what's known as SNAP, back in April.

"I think that it really does help bridge that gap, whether it's for a few weeks or for a few months," Gordon said.

However, under the SNAP program, she can't buy hot food, but she can pick up an energy drink if she wanted to.

"An energy drink - it's not a necessity. It's not nutritional, and I think the original idea behind the SNAP program or the EBT was for nutritional purposes," Gordon said.

But executives with big companies like Monster, Zero Nos and Red Bull changed the labels of their energy drinks from supplement to nutrition. The change now allows those drinks to qualify under the food stamp program without the ingredients of the drink being changed.

"Certainly there is a loophole that is there that people will be taking advantage of, and are already taking advantage of, that needs to be addressed," Sen. Thomas Alexander said.

He represents Oconee and Pickens counties and said he's shocked by the change.

"The energy drink, until they made that change, that simple one-word change on the back of their cans, had not qualified for the program," Thomas said.

According to the Food and Drug Administration guidelines, energy drinks that have a nutrition facts label are eligible foods, but those that have a supplement facts label are considered supplements and do not qualify.

"It's amazing to me how you could change one word, not change an ingredient, not change anything else about the drink, and all of a sudden, it becomes qualified for the program," Alexander said.

In the past, Alexander said he pushed for more nutritional products at a lower cost under the SNAP program, but will now pour his energy into looking into the new labels.

"We really need to get back to the intent of the program, in my opinion, and that is to make sure we provide the proper type of products and food to someone to have a good steady diet," Alexander said.

So while some are popping the tabs, taxpayers are paying them. And Gordon said she hopes the energy drink drama fizzles out soon so another fight can heat up.

"Make an option the hot food," she said.

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