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The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) has submitted its recommendations to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), setting the stage for the start of a year-long process to update the USDA's Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
The advisory committee's final report submitted to the agencies notes: “The overall body of evidence examined by the 2015 DGAC identifies that a healthy dietary pattern is 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 and low in sugar-sweetened foods and drinks and refined grains.”
For the first time, "the impact of food production, processing, and consumption on environmental sustainability" was also included in the dietary advisory group's recommendations. "Linking health, dietary guidance, and the environment will promote human health and the sustainability of natural resources and ensure current and long-term food security," according to the report.
While the federal government will have the final say about whether to adopt the external expert committee's recommendations – which include eating less red meat, drinking more coffee and consuming eco-friendly foods – for the conclusive guidelines that will be released at the end of 2015, the views expressed by executives from two of the industry's leading trade associations differ significantly.
Cathy Burns, president of the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association (PMA), vigorously applauded the heavy emphasis of fruit and vegetable consumption that is found throughout the report. "Key findings detailed in the report reinforce what we already know to be true; fruits and vegetables are integral parts to a healthy diet," said Burns. "Notably, the committee found that the consumption of fruits has remained low, but stable, for the U.S. population. Vegetable intake has declined, particularly among children and adolescents." The committee's findings, she added, "reinforce the need for marketing initiatives that make a connection to our healthy foods for young consumers," including PMA's collaborative "eat brighter!" initiative.
Burns further commended the committee’s recognition of the efforts of food industry groups to "maintain and promote food safety, including that of the Partnership for Food Safety Education and the consumer campaign, Fight BAC! We thank the committee for their efforts and acknowledge their thoughtful recommendations for a healthful, nutritious diet."
Barry Carpenter, president and CEO of the North American Meat Institute, blasted the report, which includes a footnote which states: “As lean meats were not consistently defined or handled similarly between studies, they were not identified as a common characteristic across the reviews. However, as demonstrated in the food patterns modeling of the healthy U.S. style and the healthy Mediterranean-style patterns, lean meats can be a part of a healthy, dietary pattern.”
"Lean meat’s relegation to a footnote," said Carpenter, "ignores the countless studies and data that the committee reviewed for the last two years that showed unequivocally that meat and poultry are among the most nutrient dense foods available. Nutrient dense lean meat is a headline, not a footnote."
The guidelines also frowned on processed meats, to which Carpenter, on behalf of the meat industry, countered allows it to "be more readily consumed – and consumed in styles and flavor profiles that people around the world savor – helps ensure that people can make these products part of their healthy balanced diet. It is also unfortunate the committee is generalizing about an entire category of foods," Carpenter continued, noting that processed meat and poultry products "are diverse and include low-fat, low- sodium, gluten-free, natural, organic, kosher, halal and regular formulations, along with countless flavors and styles."
As USDA and HHS continue developing the final policy report, NAMI is urging the agencies to acknowledge lean meat’s role in a healthy diet and to undertake a careful review of the information about processed meats that was reviewed by the committee.
NAMI: 'Sustainability Conclusions Remain Flawed'
NAMI's Carpenter also decried "the committee’s foray into the murky waters of sustainability," which he said "is well beyond its scope and expertise. It’s akin to having a dermatologist provide recommendations about cardiac care.
"If our government believes Americans should factor sustainability into their choices, guidance should come from a panel of sustainability experts that understands the complexity of the issue and address all segments [of] transportation, construction, energy management and all forms of agriculture," argued Carpenter, adding that, "Total sustainability analyses were not considered by the advisory committee, whose recommendations appear to be based on personal opinions or social agendas.”
The advisory committee's recommendations are available online for public review and comment, which secretaries of both HHS and USDA said will be considered along with the 2015 DGAC report, as well as input from other federal agencies prior to developing a new Dietary Guidelines for Americans, to be released later this year.