Fuming over food
The US food industry tries hard to dilute dietary guidelines. A story that repeats itself across the world
THE US Department of Agriculture (usda) and the Department of Health and Human Services (hhs) issue dietary guidelines for its citizens every five years.These form the basis of the country’s nutritional policy. This year, when recommendations for the 2015 dietary guidelines were opened for public comment in February,it created quite a storm in the US Congress and the food industry.The recommendations contained two unprecedented propositions: one, they introduced environmental sustainability as a concern and proposed limited consumption of meats for a healthier and planet-friendly diet; and two, they recommended that not more than 10 per cent of calorie intake should be from added sugars.
“Average US diet has a larger environmental impact in terms of increased greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use, and energy use.This is because the current US population intake of animalbased foods is higher and plant-based foods are [sic] lower, than proposed in dietary patterns,”state the recommendations. The solution is a diet “higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in calories and animal-based foods”.
The recommendations led to a no-holds-barred debate, with senators and the food industry on one side, and proenvironment groups on the other. Thirty senators shot off a letter to usda and hhs, protesting against the recommendations and questioning the expertise of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (dgac)— which makes the recommendations on the basis of new scientific developments—to discuss environment sustainability. dgac comprises some of the country’s top scientists and nutrition researchers.
The meat industry launched campaigns like “Hands off My Hotdog”to counter the recommendations. Media reports say the recommendations created such a stir that usad and hhs received close to 30,000 comments,against 1,200 comments received for the 2010 recommendations.The guidelines will be released later this year, and implemented from 2016.
In the US,industry interference through lobbying and funding is an open secret.“The cat-