FarmPolicy

November 17, 2019

Update: 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report

Categories: Nutrition

Following Thursday’s release of dietary guidelines from a government advisory committee, former United States Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan made the following tweet:

On the other hand, American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman indicated on Friday that, “We are, however, concerned that the report’s lengthy foray into sustainability issues goes well beyond both the group’s expertise and its clearly defined mission. Its conclusions would have benefitted from the contributions of agronomists, animal scientists, ecologists and others with deeper expertise in agriculture and sustainability.

“The report makes many good observations about the need for a balanced diet, but we are troubled that it also repeats alarmist and unsubstantiated assertions about land use first promulgated by a UN agency with scant agricultural understanding. These assertions contradict the views of the UN’s own agricultural experts and fly in the face of decades of scientific consensus. The overall guidelines also ignore easier and more effective ways ordinary Americans can reduce their carbon footprints.

We suspect the report’s unrealistically pessimistic view of sustainability colors its views regarding meat in the American diet. Instead of supporting the health benefits of lean meat consumption — as previous advisory committees have consistently done — the authors focus only on a diet ‘higher in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low- or non-fat dairy, seafood, legumes, and nuts; moderate in alcohol (among adults); lower in red and processed meat.'”

Meanwhile, a news release Friday from Sen. John Thune (R., S.D.) stated that, “Following a new report from the Obama administration’s Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which advises the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on the suggested 2015 dietary guidelines, U.S. Sens. [Thune] and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) expressed their concern about the misleading and inconsistent guidelines on meat consumption in the report.

“Every five years, USDA and HHS review the dietary guidelines for American food consumption. The new report recommends to the secretaries what should be included in the dietary guidelines that will be issued later this year. The report leaves lean red meat out of what it considers to be a healthy diet, which is not only a great concern to dietitians who support consumption of lean red meat but is also concerning for the South Dakota livestock industry.”

Nina Teicholz indicated in a column in Saturday’s New York Times that, “The committee’s new report also advised eliminating ‘lean meat’ from the list of recommended healthy foods, as well as cutting back on red and processed meats. Fewer protein choices will likely encourage Americans to eat even more carbs. It will also have policy implications: Meat could be limited in school lunches and other federal food programs.

“It’s possible that a mostly meatless diet could be healthy for all Americans — but then again, it might not be. We simply do not know. There are no rigorous clinical trials on such a diet, and although epidemiological data exists for adult vegetarians, there is none for children.”

AP writer Mary Clare Jalonick reported on Friday that, “A tax on sugary drinks and snacks is one way a government panel of nutrition experts thinks Americans can be coaxed into eating better. Some members of Congress are already pushing back on the idea, saying the panel has overstepped its bounds.

“The panel’s recommendations will help determine what gets into the new version of dietary guidelines being prepared by the Agriculture and Health and Human Services departments. The advice includes eating more fruits and vegetables and whole grains and limiting added sugars and fat.

“However, the panel goes beyond previous versions of the dietary guidelines by suggesting a broad list of possible policy changes — a tax is just one — that could make it easier for people to follow that diet advice.”

Ms. Jalonick added that, “Other ideas put forth by the committee were placing nutrition labels on the front of food packages and requiring public buildings to serve healthier foods. The committee also suggested incentives for eating fruits and vegetables, though it didn’t detail how that could work. Panel members said incentives might be vouchers for farmers markets or subsidies for growers or grocery stores.

The panel endorsed adding a line on the nutrition facts label for added sugars, which the Obama administration has already proposed. It also backed the administration’s standards for healthier school lunches.

“Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., criticized the report shortly after it came out Thursday, saying the committee strayed from its science-based nutrition recommendations.”

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