Recall that in a February 11th House Ag Committee hearing, Chairman Michael Conaway (R., Tex.) and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack had an exchange on the Dietary Guideline issue.
Sec. Vilsack noted that, “Well, first of all, these are recommendations which the Department of Health & Human Services and the Department of Agriculture are free to accept, reject, or modify based on, ultimately, the decision-making that we are responsible for. Secondly, these folks get together, they do literature review of the latest science. It’s supposed to be driven by science and it needs to be driven by science. There is a lot of issues that have to be resolved yet. This is by no means finalized.”
Chairman Conaway pointed out that, “Well, again, you know, we’ve mentioned the science-based decision-making process, and nutrition science ought to drive the train and not sustainability or environment things, other things like that. It ought to be nutrition-based science, so appreciate that.”
AP writer Mary Clare Jalonick reported today that, “A government advisory committee is recommending the first real limits on added sugars, but it’s backing off stricter ones for salt and cholesterol. It calls for an environmentally friendly diet lower in red and processed meats.
“The Agriculture and Health and Human Services departments will use Thursday’s report to write new dietary guidelines, due by the end of the year. The guidelines influence everything from federally subsidized school lunches to food package labels to doctors’ advice.”
Wall Street Journal Video: Diet Experts Push More Plants, Less Meat in Nod to Environment
Tennille Tracy reported on Thursday at The Wall Street Journal Online that, “The focus on sustainable diets is angering the meat industry, particularly beef producers, accused of taking a particularly heavy toll on the environment.
“‘The committee’s foray into the murky waters of sustainability is well beyond its scope and expertise,’ said Barry Carpenter, president of the North American Meat Institute, which represents beef and poultry producers.
“The meat industry believes the panel, which has been meeting for well over a year, is pursuing a broader antimeat agenda, even though it doesn’t recommend specific daily reductions in meat or poultry consumption.”
Roberto Ferdman and Peter Whoriskey reported on Thursday at The Washington Post Online that, “The advisory panel’s report prompted immediate criticism from Congress — as well as a warning from Rep. Robert B. Aderholt (R-Ala.), chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the budget for the Agriculture Department.
“‘Chairman Aderholt is skeptical of the panel’s departure from utilizing sound science as the criteria for the guidelines,’ according to Brian Rell, a spokesman. ‘Politically motivated issues such as taxes on certain foods and environmental sustainability are outside their purview.’
“He warned that the panel committee would ‘keep this in mind’ as it considers funding the agencies this spring.”
Bloomberg writers Alan Bjerga and Doni Bloomfield reported today that, “Americans should pay taxes on sugary sodas and snacks as a way to cut down on sweets, though they no longer need to worry about cholesterol, according to scientists helping to revamp dietary guidelines as U.S. obesity levels surge.
“The recommendations Thursday from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee also call for Americans to reduce meat consumption and to take sustainability into account when dining.”
The Bloomberg writers pointed out that, “The sustainability initiative endorses plant-based diets and urges more consumption of farm-raised fish as ways to alleviate stress on the environment. The idea sparked action in Congress: An appropriations bill passed last year includes a nonbinding provision telling the USDA and HHS to ‘only include nutrition and dietary information.’
“HHS, which will write the guidelines, and the USDA jointly appointed the committee, then will act on its recommendations after considering public comment for 45 days. Final guidelines are to be released by the end of this year” [related USDA news release here].
See also these Bloomberg video with Mr. Bjerga:
Senate Ag Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R., Kan.) indicated on Thursday that, ““I am glad the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report has finally been released, so we can all stop wondering what it was going to say. This report is disappointing, as it is clear with some of these recommendations, the non-political, science-based process has gone awry. The Dietary Guidelines are an essential part of combating obesity and improving the diets of all Americans, and it is crucial the Guidelines be free from political influence and be completely based in nutrition science. It appears this has not been the case, and that is troubling news. As USDA and HHS take this report into consideration and develop the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, I hope they work to restore integrity to the process and preserve the independent, unbiased and nutrition science-based nature of previous Guidelines.”