By Lauren Hungarland, staff editor Everyone knows that USDA dietary guidelines are traditionally made of equal servings of politics and science. Some hoped that the Obama administration would strike a different tone, paying more attention to dietary research and less to food industry lobbyists. Viewed from this perspective, the recently announced Dietary Guidelines for Americans are a mixed bag.
Despite lobbying efforts, the guidelines (which are released every five years) suggest for the first time ever that Americans simply eat LESS. The guidelines also list certain food items to avoid by name, which is often avoided to reduce political backlash. This year, the biggest recommendations include decreasing sodium intake and eating smaller portions. Both recommendations will have potentially significant effects on the food industry, especially on companies that specialize in frozen and fast food and restaurants that sell large single servings.
One industry seemed to fare well in the report. The Executive Summary recommends that individuals increase dairy consumption, something that is not at all surprising given the strong lobbying power of the U.S. dairy industry. In the fall of 2010, the New York Times published an article about the USDA’s financial support of an organization that encourages restaurants to add additional, and unhealthy amounts of, cheese to their menus.
In the end, we have to wonder how much we can trust these guidelines. Is the USDA writing this report and also supporting Domino’s addition of 40 percent more cheese to its pizzas? Is the prominent recommendation for increased seafood consumption a result of lobbying efforts or a desire for improved health?
More importantly, do the American people still trust the government to help them make healthy decisions?