A thorough review of the science used by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) indicates that more than 70 percent of its recommendations were not based on the reviews of USDA’s Nutritional Evidence Library (NEL). The NEL is designed to reduce bias in scientific analysis by serving as a primary resource to inform the committee about the best available scientific research and answer important food and nutrition-related questions.
In oral comments delivered to USDA and HHS at a public meeting today, North American Meat Institute Vice President of Scientific Affairs Betsy Booren, Ph.D., argued that meat and poultry products, which include red and processed meats, are an important component of a healthy American diet and questioned the inconsistency of the inclusion and exclusion criteria for studies by the DGAC, thereby undermining the credibility of many of the recommendations.
“Lean meat and poultry products, which can include red and processed meats, should be part of a healthy dietary pattern because they are nutrient dense proteins that are necessary for a healthy life. These products provide Americans a simple, direct, and balanced dietary source of all essential amino acids and are rich sources of micronutrients such as iron, selenium, Vitamins A, B12, and folic acid. While it is common today for food processors to add protein, our products are the obvious and natural protein choice for most Americans,” Dr. Booren said.
“It is incumbent on HHS and USDA to develop nutrition policy based on recommendations derived by the NEL. To do otherwise implies policy is being developed under a shroud of bias,” she continued.
Dr. Booren also criticized the DGAC’s actions outside the statute and scope of expertise to include recommendations related to sustainability, noting that the group’s expertise is on nutrition and epidemiology and no member has expert credentials concerning sustainability.
“The same concern would exist if an expert sustainability committee were making nutrition policy recommendations,” Dr. Booren said. “It is not appropriate for the person designing a better light bulb to be telling Americans how to make a better sandwich. Sustainability is a complex issue best left to those with the necessary expertise.”
A look at the DGAC report also shows the NEL review for the subcommittee evaluating sustainability was preliminary, incomplete, and deviated from the evidence review approach used by all other subcommittees.
The oral comments provided at today’s hearing are available here.