Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Food Policy Update: Federal 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines Endorse Lean Meats, Lean Poultry, and Eggs

Written by M. Sean High - Staff Attorney

On January 7, 2016, the Federal Government released the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 8th Edition.  Published every five years for public health officials, the Federal Dietary Guidelines are produced in a joint effort between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  

According to the 2015-202 Dietary Guidelines for Americans:

The main purpose of the Dietary Guidelines is to inform the development of Federal food, nutrition, and health policies and programs. The primary audiences are policymakers, as well as nutrition and health professionals, not the general public. The Dietary Guidelines is a critical tool for professionals to help Americans make healthy choices in their daily lives to help prevent chronic disease and enjoy a healthy diet. It serves as the evidence-based foundation for nutrition education materials that are developed by the Federal Government for the public.

While the Dietary Guidelines are not legally binding regulations, they are extremely influential in determining what food is made available through Federal food programs such as the school lunch program.  Just as important, the Dietary Guidelines can have a significant effect on consumer perceptions and often sway food purchasing decisions.  

Of significance to the agricultural industry, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans stated that “[f]or those who eat animal products, the recommendation for the protein foods subgroup of meats, poultry, and eggs can be met by consuming a variety of lean meats, lean poultry, and eggs.”

On January 7, 2016, the National Cattleman’s Beef Association issued a press release praising “HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack for ensuring the final recommendations were based on the latest nutrition evidence available.”  The press release quoted Texas cattle producer and physician Dr. Richard Thorpe who expressed his appreciation that the guidelines were based on the latest nutrition science.  Dr. Thorpe stated that “[n]umerous studies have shown positive benefits of lean beef in the diet, and I commonly encourage my patients to include beef in their diet to help them maintain a healthy weight and get the nutrients they need to be physically active.”

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