Tags: Americans | diet | red meat | environment

US Panel: Americans' Eating Habits Could Be Harming The Planet

By    |   Friday, 20 February 2015 01:16 PM

The top nutritional panel in the United States is recommending for the first time that Americans take into account the potentially harmful impact that their food choices are having on the environment.

The move by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which defied a warning from Congress, "could discourage people from eating red meat" if enacted, according to The Washington Post.

The recommendation drew fire from industry representatives who charged that members of the panel were going out beyond their areas of expertise — nutrition and health — and into subjects they knew relatively little about.

In December, lawmakers on Capitol Hill said the panel should stick to nutritional advice instead of weighing in on extraneous issues. But it is apparent from the 571-page report issued this week that it disregarded this message.

The report says that "consistent evidence" indicates that "in general, a dietary pattern that is higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with lesser environmental impact than is the current average U.S. diet."

The panel's "foray into the murky waters of [environmental] sustainability is well beyond its scope and expertise. It's akin to having a dermatologist provide recommendations about cardiac care," said Barry Carpenter, chief executive of the North American Meat Institute.

Carpenter said the recommendations seem "to be based on personal opinions or social agendas."

The environmental recommendations will be part of a report that is supposed to provide a scientific basis for the next edition of the federal publication advising Americans on what to eat.

That publication, known as the Dietary Guidelines, will be issued later this year by the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services.

In December, Congress, responding to reports that the guidelines might include environmental recommendations, expressed concern that the panel was "considering issues outside of the nutritional focus of the panel" and said the final dietary guidelines should be limited to "nutrition and dietary information."

The panel's report drew a warning from Rep. Robert B. Aderholt, chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the Agriculture Department budget.

According to Aderholt, the group would have been well-advised to stick to its mission: providing advice on how Americans can have a more healthy diet.

Aderholt, an Alabama Republican, "is skeptical of the panel's departure from utilizing sound science as the criteria for the guidelines" and believes that "politically motivated issues" like taxes on certain foods and environmental sustainability "are outside their purview," a spokesman said.

He added that lawmakers would "keep this in mind" as they consider funding government agencies this spring.

Miriam Nelson, a Tufts University professor and a member of the advisory panel, defended the recommendations, saying that the United States needs to join other countries and "start thinking about what's sustainable."

Food industry representatives also objected to the panel's recommendation that federal, state, and local officials consider increased taxation on foods containing sodium and high amounts of sugar, Politico reported.

The federal panel said this "may encourage consumers to reduce consumption" while "revenues generated could support health promotion efforts." 

Its efforts "went far beyond its charge and authority, advancing a predetermined agenda rather than one based on the preponderance of scientific evidence," said Chris Gindlesperger, a spokesman for the American Beverage Association.

"Instead of following its charge of developing nutrition recommendations based on clear scientific evidence, the [panel] spent significant time posturing its personal perspectives and advocating for public policies such as taxes and restrictions on foods and beverages."

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The top nutritional panel in the United States is recommending for the first time that Americans take into account the potentially harmful impact that their food choices are having on the environment.
Americans, diet, red meat, environment
Friday, 20 February 2015 01:16 PM
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