New U.S. dietary recommendations are in the works. And for the first time in 30 years, the federal government is seeking public comment about what belongs on the plate.
“This is fabulous because we have so many experts in the field of nutrition and diet and health and I think they can all weigh in to suggest questions about what needs to be addressed,” says Joan Salge Blake, a clinical associate professor of nutrition at Boston University.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services publish a revised set of guidelines every five years — primarily to inform policymakers and health professionals. The standards in the past have come in the form of the “food pyramid.”
Today, they’re called “MyPlate,” which suggest consumers focus on whole fruits, low-fat dairy products and a variety of vegetables and proteins, and cut back on sodium, saturated fats and added sugars.
The next set of dietary guidelines are due in 2020, and the departments are adding recommendations for specific “life stages,” particularly children up to 2 years old, pregnant women and seniors. Previous dietary guidelines had been generalized for Americans older than 2.
The 2014 farm bill mandated the new life-stage recommendations.
“We think that allowing these topics out first is an approach that provides increased transparency for the constituencies interested in this process,” USDA acting undersecretary of food, nutrition and consumer services Brandon Lipps said during a news conference. “The topics are out. People can review those [and] comment on them.”
The USDA emphasized that it wants guidance on topics such as breastfeeding, dietary supplements and seafood consumption.
While the guidelines aren’t necessarily geared toward the public, they influence consumer choice and what farmers grow. Past dietary guidelines have been criticized for favoring certain foods over others, such as beef, or not factoring in sustainability.
Lipps says he hopes to field a strong advisory panel that will ultimately put together the final recommendations. Public comment is open through March 30.
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