The Dietary Guidelines may soon be based on global warming as much as human nutrition.
Currently, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) is working on recommendations for the 2015 Guidelines. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will use the Committee’s recommendations to modify the Guidelines, which are updated every five years. Unfortunately, the DGAC has taken the Guidelines in a radical direction that has nothing to do with dietary health.
Make no mistake: the Guidelines are influential. They are used to develop many federal nutritional programs, including school meal programs. If this environmental hijacking of the Guidelines is left unaddressed, the nutritional health of children, and the public generally, could be weighed against the political agenda of environmental special interests.
Dr. Barbara Millen, chair of the DGAC, remarked at their first meeting, “Overall, we want to be certain to make recommendations for a healthy, ecologically responsible diet.”
A subcommittee was even formed called the “Subcommittee on Food Sustainability and Safety.” In a presentation, the subcommittee explained, “The goal is to develop dietary guidance that supports human health and the health of the planet over time.”
The Washington Free Beacon reports that Dr. Miriam Nelson, a committee member, argued that “Eating fewer animals, but choosing those wisely, and reducing sugar, refined grains, things like that, that diet that we already have stated from the evidence, if we were to get Americans to eat it, would actually have a lower footprint than what we are currently doing.”
There’s no place in the Dietary Guidelines for a politically extreme environmental agenda, or for that matter any other non-nutritional agenda.
The Guidelines are promoted as providing authoritative nutritional advice—it’s deceptive and dangerous to provide Americans nutritional advice knowing that it isn’t based solely on their nutritional needs and instead driven by politics. It’s even worse for the government to develop food programs, such as those to feed school children, based on dubious, politicized recommendations.
Human nutritional interests and political environmental agendas are completely unrelated. Developing legitimate nutritional guidelines therefore becomes an impossible task. For example, if the best nutritional advice recommends increasing meat consumption, but the extreme environmental agenda pushes for reducing meat consumption, it isn’t clear which objective would win out if the DGAC continues to operate under these misguided principles. Although, given the DGAC’s actions and statements so far, the environmental objective would likely be very persuasive.
Congress needs to step in and get the program back on track. The fact that the USDA and HHS have even allowed the DGAC to consider these unrelated environmental issues is inexcusable.
Lawmakers should use the current appropriations process to withhold funding for these new Dietary Guidelines if human nutrition isn’t the one and only factor considered in their development. Congress should then amend the 1990 National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act , which mandates the Guidelines, by clarifying that nutrition should be the only factor.
It isn’t just the integrity of the Guidelines though that would be hurt if the DGAC stays on this course. For starters, federal nutrition policies based on these Guidelines would be compromised. This covers everything from nutrition labeling to food allowances for the military. There could also be serious unintended consequences for people trying to make good decisions about their diet.
In the past, the Guidelines had been criticized for being influenced by special interests. They have a record of failure, such as not distinguishing between fats and promoting the consumption of carbohydrates. But what’s being considered right now takes things to a whole new level and provides a great example of why Congress should repeal the Guidelines. At a minimum though, it shows why Congress must act to stop this hijacking.
This article has been modified.