Noem Urges USDA & HHS to Base Food Guidelines on Nutrition, Not an Environmental Agenda
Washington, D.C. – In a letter to the Secretaries of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) Tuesday, Reps. Kristi Noem, Vicki Hartzler and more than 65 other Members of Congress urged the agencies to base upcoming food guidelines on nutrition factors, not an environmental agenda. The congressional attention was sparked after the administration revealed it was taking a food’s carbon footprint into account when developing recommendations for new dietary guidelines – the first time such considerations have been made in U.S. history.
“The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Council has no business entering into environmental activism,” said Noem. “The new environmentally friendly nutrition guidelines would largely leave meat – especially beef – out of what is considered to be a healthy dietary pattern. This is not based on the work of nutritionists or epidemiologists, but the belief that the carbon footprint left by animals is too large. It’s a misguided approach to nutrition that undermines the trust folks put into these recommendations.”
Every five years, USDA and HHS review the dietary guidelines for American food consumption. The new report recommends what should be included in the final dietary guidelines that will be issued later this year. Once approved, the guidelines will be used as an educational tool and to help develop federal nutrition policy. Today’s letter raises concerns that the report exceeds its Scope of Work by straying from purely nutritional evidence and venturing into areas like sustainability and tax policy. It also highlights concerns that the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Council, which is responsible for drafting the proposed guidelines, may have subjectively hand-picked data to support pre-determined conclusions when making dietary recommendations for the report.
“The USDA is currently accepting public comments on these new guidelines and I encourage you to participate,” continued Noem. “Just visit www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines and submit a comment by midnight on April 8, 2015.”
Scroll down for a full copy of the letter.
March 31, 2015
The Honorable Tom Vilsack
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave. SW
Washington, D.C. 20250
The Honorable Sylvia Mathews Burwell
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Ave. SW
Washington, D.C. 20201
Dear Secretaries Vilsack and Burwell:
We are writing today to express our sincere disappointment with the recent report issued by the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) and certain recommendations for the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). The DGA play a critical role as the scientific basis for federal nutrition policy development and form the basis of Federal nutrition policy, education, outreach, and food assistance programs used by consumers, industry, nutrition educators, and health professionals. Therefore, it is essential that the DGA be based on sound nutrition science and not stray into other areas outside of this specific discipline.
However, after reviewing the DGAC report that was released February 19, 2015, we believe that the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee greatly exceeded their scope in developing recommendations for the Secretaries of USDA and HHS to the detriment of the American diet. It is the responsibility of the Secretaries to ensure that this advisory committee stay focused on nutritional recommendations and not the wider policy realm of sustainability and tax policy, in which members of this committee had neither expertise, evidence, nor charter.
We are disappointed with reports from observers that the approach of the 2015 DGAC suggests studies were either selected or excluded to support pre-determined conclusions. For example, the DGAC’s recommendation on lean red meat directly contradicts years of peer reviewed scientific research on the benefits of lean red meat as a high quality source of protein in a healthy diet. It is crucial for HHS and the USDA to recognize the need for flexibility in the American diet that reflects the diverse population of this country.
It is extremely difficult to reverse or change public policy, once enacted, without causing consumer confusion. Inaccurate and conflicting dietary guidance messages are detrimental to consumer understanding of nutrition and the ability to build healthy diets. At a time when consumers are already subjected to conflicting and often contradictory nutrition and health information, providing the public with science-based, realistic and achievable information is more likely to contribute to improved public health outcomes.
We encourage you to focus the development of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines based on a “preponderance” of current scientific and medical knowledge and to ensure that the 2015 DGA are irrefutably science-based, consistent with advice from other federal agencies, and are communicated in terms easily understood by the public.