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“Our concern is that in many instances, it may point to a trafficking issue,” he said.

Last year, about 850,000 people were investigated for possible food stamp fraud. About 2,000 stores were sanctioned for illegal conduct, and 1,200 stores were permanently removed from the food stamp program.

Large supermarkets are seldom involved in illegal activity, Concannon said. The vast majority of fraud is found in smaller shops and convenience stores.

The USDA is currently developing tougher sanctions and penalties for retailers engaging in food stamp fraud. It is also taking steps to make sure that people disqualified from the program for illegal activity are not able to use it again in other states.