The federal government rejected a Minnesota plan to bar people from using food stamps to buy junk food, saying the proposal could create "confusion and embarrassment" in the checkout aisle.
Minnesota had sought permission from the U.S. Agriculture Department to become the first state to impose its own restrictions on what food could be bought with food stamps. The plan by Gov. Tim Pawlenty would have narrowly targeted certain unhealthy foods, especially candy and soda.
But in a strongly worded response sent Tuesday and received by state officials Friday, the USDA turned down the request. Regional administrator Ollice Holden said the change would violate the Food Stamp Act's definition of what is food.
State Human Services Commissioner Kevin Goodno said he was disappointed by the decision.
"The question was: Should we stop using taxpayers dollars for low-income people to purchase candy bars and soda pop?" he said. "Their answer was no."
The federal government somewhat restricts the use of food stamps, barring items including household supplies, liquor and tobacco products.