My Samhain Stew

Time to Cook Up Some New Dietary Guidelines

Ready or not, new Dietary Guidelines for Americans are coming our way in 2020. In the midst of our polarized politics, you can be sure that this round will have some difficult twists and turns.

No More One Size Fits All

The new dietary guidelines will follow a life stage approach. USDA and HHS organized questions for the advisory committee accordingly. Infants and toddlers, youth, adults, mothers, and seniors all get separate consideration. All these questions are set.

And you can be sure that some of the same issues that rocked the process for 2015 will be back. Environmental impact? The official line is that it’s off topic. That’s what the Obama administration concluded. Congress also weighed in, with provisions in the 2016 budget. Dietary guidelines can’t consider anything but nutrition, it said. But people are already lobbying for a more informed approach. Does it matter if the planet can’t produce the food we’re telling people to eat?

Other issues are back on the table. Healthy and unhealthy fats. Added sugar. Total dietary patterns.

Issues about meat and dairy are lurking in the background, but not explicit. In fact, you won’t find even a single mention of them on the USDA’s list of issues for the advisory committee.

Recruiting the Advisory Committee

Yes, that’s right. The list of issues is already set in stone. This time – unlike prior cycles – the experts have no say in the agenda. So between now and October 6, the feds are taking nominations for the advisory committee.

Dietary Guidelines Process

In the past, industry interests have been carefully excluded from the advisory committee. But this time around, we have the Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue telling the food industry:

I trust that you all in your companies and your industries are looking at who you would like to represent your views on the dietary guidelines committee.

This will definitely be an interesting cycle for the dietary guidelines. Buckle up for a wild ride.

Click here for a point of view from the Union of Concerned Scientists. For further perspective, click here and here. If you want to nominate someone for the committee, you can get the scoop here.

My Samhain Stew, photograph © Enric Martinez / flickr

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September 20, 2018