by Marion Nestle
Jul 9 2010

Dietary Guidelines hearings: Lobbying in Action

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee held a hearing yesterday on its recent report (see my posts of June 28 on the politics of this report, and June 29 on its science).  I could not attend the hearing but am collecting second-hand reports from people who attended or testified.

Philip Brasher, who blogs at, summarizes lobbyists at work:

  • National Pork Producers: “Lean meat is a vital source of high-quality protein and certainly should not be framed as a food to limit in the American diet….Urging Americans to shift to a more plant-based diet and consume only moderate amounts of lean meat implies they should decrease consumption of this vital, complete protein.”
  • Egg producers: “The average American could increase egg consumption and still be within the egg-a-day limit.”
  • The Sugar Association: Advice to reduce sugar is “impractical, unrealistic and not grounded in the body of evidence.”
  • The Salt Institute:  “Encouraging consumption of low-salt foods will encourage Americans to eat excessively to make up for the lack of taste….The guidelines have become far more a reflection of ideology than sound science.”

The Organic Trade Association testified that the scientific review, which found no significant nutritional differences between organic and conventionally produced foods, is:

Neither grounded in current science nor relevant to the mandate of the Dietary Guidelines….[it is] in direct conflict with the advice put forth by the recent President’s Cancer Panel report regarding ways to reduce environmental cancer risk….It is inconceivable and alarming that the very document that is the underpinning of our nation’s policies regarding food and nutrition would include a statement that directly contradicts these recommendations….As released, the guidelines confuse the consumer, contradict the President’s own Cancer Panel, and do not enhance dietary recommendations.

To repeat: The committee report is simply advisory.  So is the lobbying.  The sponsoring federal agencies, USDA and DHHS, now must deal with both as well as with written comments on the report’s statements and recommendations.

The agencies write the final guidelines. Will they include advice to cut down on added sugars and fatty meats?  Will they say anything positive about organic foods?

Maybe, if enough people weigh in with such opinions.  Comments are due by July 15.  Here’s how.

Addition, July 10: Amber Healy’s terrific account in Food Chemical News (July 12) summarizes the hearings as “largely boiling down to a single question: Is meat good or bad?” For example:

  • People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), the Soyfoods Association of North America and Christina Pirello, the host of a cooking show on PBS: the guidelines should more clearly spell out the benefits of reducing meat consumption and take a stronger position on the need to reduce intake of processed meats.
  • Sally Fallon Morell, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation: the recommended reduction in intake of lean meat and protein from animal sources could “perpetuate the kind of nutrient deficiencies” that the guidelines try to avoid and even lead to lower fertility rates.
  • Betsy Booren of the American Meat Institute: If people try to consume the same amount of protein from plant-based foods, people could end up consuming more calories than if they had simply eaten some lean meat or poultry.

And, the National Dairy Council and the International Dairy Foods Association approved of the recommendation for three daily servings of low-fat or fat-free milk or dairy foods, but asked that the final guidelines acknowledge that flavored low-fat milk [i.e. chocolate] can encourage consumption among children.

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  • Jo

    The lobbyist have to be kidding.

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  • Bobby

    To celebrate the positive impact of the various agribusiness lobbying groups working hard everyday to improve the lives of Americans (at least those americans profiting from the sales of these products), I ate a supper last night of pork and eggs, with ample quantities of sugar and salt added to the recipe. Yum. (Irony alert)

  • Judy

    Here’s hoping Dr. David Kessler, former FDA head and author of The End of Overeating, gets as much time and attention as the salt, sugar and fat lobbies.

  • Tumeria Langlois

    America is in a health crisis- heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity. The consumption of animal proteins (meat, eggs and dairy) have been linked with all these diseases. We need to change to a plant based diet to improve our health and quality of life- not just for us but for the planet itself. We have only one body and one planet. Lets take care of ourselves, not the multi-billion dollar food industry!

  • Rob Carter

    You have to be kidding, we already know that 2 glasses are of concern and you want to endanger us even more. Even if milk is organic, local, raw, pasteurized or not, all natural, no hormones added, grass or grain-fed, it is NOT meant for HUMAN consumption! Seriously people, wake up and do your research…the reasons why we shouldn’t drink it are endless: 3/4 of the world are lactose intolerant, even humans only drink HUMAN milk as babies, not as adults, milk has been linked to many diseases and the newest in depth studies show and prove this, even adult cows don’t drink their milk, why should we? I’m not even mentioning a thousandth of the reasons but those are the easiest to find for the non-savvy internet researchers… We need less sugar, less fat, less toxins in our bodies and this is going against health!

  • Dawne Termini

    Any naturopath or well educated nutritionist will tell you that humans are the only mammals that continue to consume milk after being weaned from it as babies. Cheese, due to the enzymes used in the making of it, does have some digestive benefits to it if consumed in moderation. Dairy causes a lot of gastrointestinal distress due to our bodies lack of enzyme production to help break it down. (hence why cheese is a tad bit more tolerable) Its a no brainer. Dairy is NOT necessary for healthy growth, calcium is, which can be obtained by eating more veggies! It’s time the gov’t stops listening to lobbyists and starts listening to the PEOPLE, and its HIGH TIME to start putting the information out there CLEARLY and CONSICELY so people can educate themselves properly. This should be front page news people.

  • Victoria

    Come on sugar association, REALLY!

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