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Nation's Health Groups Oppose Appropriations Riders Aimed at Gutting Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Amendments Would Restrict Advice on Disease-Promoting Benefits of Fruits, Vegetables, and Whole Grains... and Physical Activity

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Some of the country’s leading health and nutrition organizations are writing key leaders of the House Appropriations Committee to oppose amendments to two 2016 appropriations bills that would prohibit the federal government from using the latest science to inform the next edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The amendments would have the effect of virtually freezing the Guidelines in 2010, the last year it was updated, by setting an uncommonly high evidentiary standard even for otherwise non-controversial advice, such as advice to avoid diabetes and other diseases by selecting diets high in fruits, vegetables, or whole grains.

While the authors of the amendments may have had an eye toward limiting any recommendation in the Guidelines to eat less meat, the language is far broader, according to the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest, and would even gag the government from updating the Dietary Guidelines’ advice on the benefits of physical activity.

“One-third of Americans are presently overweight or obese, and one-half suffer from chronic diet-related disease,” the letter states. “Given the enormity of this problem, the 2015 DGA should provide the most comprehensive diet and health advice possible and reflect the most updated science.”

The letter was signed by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, the American Public Health Association, CSPI, Consumers Union, Friends of the Earth, Natural Resources Defense Council, Trust for America’s Health, and other organizations. Several prominent individual nutrition authorities, such as David L. Katz, the president of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, and Marion Nestle of New York University are among the signatories.

“This is simply a ham-fisted attempt on the part of powerful special interests, led by the meat industry, to have politicians meddle in the government’s nutrition advice,” said CSPI director of regulatory affairs Laura MacCleery. “These riders are anti-science, anti-progress, and anti-health, and should be dropped from the appropriations bills.”

The Guidelines, jointly prepared by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services, form the basis of the government’s basic nutrition advice to its citizens as well as government-funded nutrition programs, such as the school lunch program. The Guidelines’ advice is based on a thorough science review by a panel of non-government experts, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, the members of which yesterday called on Congress to drop the riders.

Other appropriations riders, also opposed by CSPI, would restrict the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from eliminating partially hydrogenated oil—a powerful promoter of heart disease—from the food supply, would delay potential guidance on sodium expected from FDA, and would halt the progress that schools and USDA are making in lowering sodium and increasing whole grains in school meals. 

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Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at]cspinet.org) or Ariana Stone (astone[at]cspinet.org).