The Center for Biological Diversity urged the U.S. federal committee to include assessments of food sustainability, climate, and accessibility in its recommendations for the 2020-2025 National Dietary Guidelinesreport.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans,updated every five years, are intended to protect public health and food security. The document serves as a government-approved blueprint for healthy diets and is widely used in nutrition-education programs and to set meal plans for government institutions including: schools, prisons, military facilities, and federal cafeterias.
The Center’s call for a broader scientific assessment comes after the Trump administration arbitrarily limited the scope of the review by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, excluding research demonstrating how plant-focused diets are more sustainable and climate-friendly.
“The pandemic has vividly exposed how our current industry-friendly system prevents equal access to sustainable, healthy, safe foods,” Stephanie Feldstein, Population and Sustainability Director at the Center, said in a statement. “Amid the current COVID-19 crisis, escalating extinction of species, and climate emergencies, we can’t afford for these important dietary guidelines to be just another gift to the meat and dairy industry.”
The committee’s review of the scientific topics that were predetermined by the Trump administration kicked off a comment period last week. The draft scientific report was due on June 17th, where the committee presented its recommendations to the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services.
In recent weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted troubling production bottlenecks in the nation’s highly inflexible, industry-driven food system, that heavily prioritizes production of cheap meat over the safety of workers and equitable consumer access to healthy, sustainable foods.
Sadly, the Trump administration’s unprecedented decision to limit consideration of research on food sustainability and accessibility restricts the dietary advisory committee’s ability to recommend changes to the food guidelines that could help address those problems.
“Plant-focused diets are critical for public health and the future of the planet,” continued Feldstein. “But it won’t work if people don’t have full access to them, and if the government doesn’t play its part to make sure they make it to our plates.”
In the comments submitted to the Federal Register, the Center noted that sustainable, plant-forward diets are strongly supported by science; to promote public health, protect food security, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
As previously reported by WAN, a report released earlier this year by the University of Michigan and Tulane University found that replacing 50%of animal products with plant-based foods in the American diet would prevent more than 1.6 billiontons of greenhouse gas pollution by 2030.The Center recommended that the dietary guidelines call for reduced consumption of meat and dairy, particularly limiting red and processed meats.
The 2015 Scientific Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee included sustainability considerations for the first time, which were widely supported by public and health experts. However, following pressure from the meat and dairy industry, sustainability was omitted from the final recommendations.