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.

In­dus­try's hold

In the US,in­dus­try in­ter­fer­ence through lob­by­ing and fund­ing is an open se­cret.“The cat-

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