USDA receives dietary guidelines report

Meat industry groups continue to voice concerns over how lean meat classified within advisory report recommendations.

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee submitted its scientific report of recommendations to the secretaries of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Health and Human Services.

The 600 page report will help guide in the final guidelines creation expected to be boiled down to 100 pages by HHS and USDA expected out later this year. The agencies will take the committees’ advice under consideration as it develops the guidelines which are updated every five years.

The final report is written for and used primarily by nutrition and health professionals, policy makers and educators, and is the foundation for federal nutrition efforts, including education initiatives and food assistance programs.

In recent months, meat industry groups have expressed deep concerns with the 15-member advisory committee’s December meeting which had a discussion on lean meat’s role in a healthy balanced diet.

The final report submitted to the agencies notes, “The overall body of evidence examined by the 2015 DGAC identifies that a healthy dietary pattern is higher in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low- or non-fat dairy, seafood, legumes, and nuts; moderate in alcohol (among adults); lower in red and processed meat and low in sugar-sweetened foods and drinks and refined grains.”

Within the “lower in red and processed meat” the report includes a footnote which says “As lean meats were not consistently defined or handled similarly between studies, they were not identified as a common characteristic across the reviews. However, as demonstrated in the food patterns modeling of the Healthy U.S. style and the Healthy Mediterranean-style patterns, lean meats can be a part of a healthy, dietary pattern.”

This footnote continues to raise red flags for the meat industry which said lean meat has been demoted from being in the “healthy” category.

North American Meat Institute chief executive officer and president Barry Carpenter said he appreciated the reports recognition of the “important role that lean meat can play in a healthy balanced diet, but lean meat’s relegation to a footnote ignores the countless studies and data that the Committee reviewed for the last two years that showed unequivocally that meat and poultry are among the most nutrient dense foods available.”

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn., also shared that a recommendation that a healthy dietary pattern should be lower in red meat is also not consistent with scientific evidence.

Dr. Shalene McNeill, registered dietician and nutrition scientist at NCBA said, “The protein foods category, which includes meat, is the only category currently consumed within the current guidelines, and it is misleading to conclude that a healthy dietary pattern should be lower in red meat.” Lean beef is one of the most nutrient rich foods, providing high levels of essential nutrients such as zinc, iron and protein, as opposed to empty calories.  

The National Pork Producers Council did welcome that the Recommended Daily Allowance of 5.5 ounces of protein foods continued. NPPC pointed out in comments on the 2015 guidelines that animal proteins are considered complete proteins, containing all the essential amino acids, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A number of critical vitamins and minerals, including B12, Heme iron and potassium – often lacking in many American diets – are found primarily in meat, and lean, nutrient-rich meat is versatile, affordable and accessible, making it easy to incorporate into the diet.

For school children, eating meat promotes satiety and preserves lean muscle mass, said NPPC. Additionally, including lean meat in their diets can help adults prevent or manage chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and hypertension. Research even shows that, for those dealing with obesity, many cuts of meat can improve long-term weight maintenance, NPPC added.

Sustainability

In developing the 2010 Dietary Guidelines sustainability impact was considered, but those in the meat industry also voiced continued concerns with sustainability being examined by the team of nutrition and health experts.

The advisory report stated that “current evidence shows that the average U.S. diet has a larger environmental impact in terms of increased greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use and energy use.”

The 2015 advisory committee again looked at sustainability considerations and said that “no food groups need to be eliminated completely to improve sustainability outcomes over the current status.”

However, the report explained that because the current U.S. population of intake of animal-based foods is higher and plant-based foods are lower than the proposed guidelines.

In a statement, NAMI noted new research released in late 2014 which looked at the issue of food sustainability in a new way.  Instead of analyzing the carbon footprint on similar equal amounts of different foods, researchers suggested that the total nutrition provided by those equal amounts must also be considered. Ten pounds of beef or pork provide more complete nutrition when consumed than 10 pounds of rice or broccoli.

“If our government believes Americans should factor sustainability into their choices, guidance should come from a panel of sustainability experts that understands the complexity of the issue and address all segments transportation, construction, energy management and all forms of agriculture.  Total sustainability analyses were not considered by the Advisory Committee, whose recommendations appear to be based on personal opinions or social agendas,” Carpenter said.

The public is encouraged to view the independent advisory group's report and provide written comments at www.DietaryGuidelines.gov for a period of 45 days after publication in the Federal Register. The public will also have an opportunity to offer oral comments at a public meeting in Bethesda, Maryland, on March 24, 2015. Those interested in providing oral comments at the March 24, 2015, public meeting can register at www.DietaryGuidelines.gov. Capacity is limited, so participants will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.

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