This past Friday, over 29,000 comments, including IATP’s review of the Guidelines, were submitted to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Department of Agriculture (USDA) on the 2015 Dietary Guidelines. The Guidelines, revised every five years, set policy guidance on the American diet and nutrition. They inform the design and implementation of federally funded nutrition programs such as the School Nutrition Program and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. Policy makers, educators and nutrition and health professionals use them.
According to Politico (subscription required), the last Scientific Report on the Dietary Guidelines (in 2010) elicited only 2,000 comments by comparison. This year’s report raised a firestorm—mainly due to the meat industry—because the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) peer-reviewed report recommended that “Sustainability” should be an integral criteria for an optimal diet. They defined a sustainable diet as a pattern of eating that promotes health and well-being and provides food security for the present population while sustaining human and natural resources for future generations and concluded the following:
A diet higher in plant-based foods (vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds)and lower in animal-based foods is both healthier and more sustainable than the current American diet.
The North American Meat Institute and other meat industry players have heavily lobbied the agencies to ensure that these recommendations are not accepted and have asserted that sustainability concerns should be excluded from guidance on nutrition. To counter this, a large number of civil society groups have coalesced under the banner My Plate, My Planet to urge the HHS and USDA to accept DGAC’s recommendations and include sustainability. In fact, because of this campaign, a large number of the comments submitted this past Friday favored including environmental impacts in the guidelines. Groups also collected over 200,000 signatures for a petition that demanded sustainability be in the guidelines. The HHS and USDA hope to stick to their schedule and issue the guidelines by the end of this year. To support the DGAC recommendations, you can sign up for updates on My Plate, My Planet.
The 2015 Dietary Guidelines are an opportunity for the HHS and the USDA to play a leadership role and integrate this critical aspect of sustainability—and the future of our food system—into federal policy on nutrition and food security.