October 25, 2016

New 2015-2020 U.S. Dietary Guidelines Released

The Obama administration has released new dietary guidelines for 2015 – 2020, as is standard every five years. They state that nutrition and health are closely related. A message from the Secretaries of Health and Human Services and USDA states that about half of American adults have preventable chronic diseases related to poor dietary habits. The focus of this edition is on disease prevention, not treatment.

Fresh ProduceThe main purpose of the Guidelines is to inform the development of Federal food, nutrition, and health policies and programs, such as the National School Lunch Program, Women Infants and Children (WIC) and the Administration on Aging. Since the rates of chronic illnesses have increased, the government wants Americans to focus more on healthy nutrition and more exercise.

The most striking recommendation is to eat more vegetables and fruits. The Guidelines state that men ages 14 to 70 consume more than the recommended amounts of meat, eggs, and poultry, and need to eat more produce. While lean meat is part of a healthy diet, according to the Guidelines, a government advisory panel had suggested calling for de-emphasizing those foods in favor of fruits and vegetables for health and environmental reasons.

But produce is one class of food that is most often linked to foodborne illness outbreaks. Contaminated produce is one of the foods most likely to cause foodborne illness. Preparation is key to help protect your family. Always wash fruits and vegetables before preparation, and be very careful if those foods are to be eaten raw.  The Guidelines suggest that the risk of not eating these nutritious foods is higher than the risk of foodborne illness.

The government has addressed food safety concerns for fresh product in the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The government finalized the Foreign Supplier Verification Program late last year, that will help regulate the safety of fresh fruits and vegetables imported into the country. FSMA rules on produce safety were also finalized late last year, addressing cleanliness of water used in irrigation, good worker hygiene, and safety of fertilizers used in the field.

The report also recommends that Americans cut down on their sugar intake. The amount of sugar consumed should be no more than 10% of daily calories, or about 200 calories for a daily diet of 2,000 calories, about the amount in one 16-ounce soda. And 90% of Americans eat too much salt, about 3,400 mg of sodium per day. The maximum intake should be 2,300 mg per day.

Recommendations about cholesterol have changed. In the 2010 Guidelines, scientists said that Americans should consume less than 300 mg a day of dietary cholesterol. That recommendation is gone, although the Guidelines state that “individuals should eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible while consuming a healthy eating pattern.”

The Guidelines also address food insecurity, which occurs when access to adequate and safe food is limited or uncertain. About 48,000,000 Americans are food insecure. Government programs are crucial in providing food and education resources to help Americans get and eat the food they need to stay healthy.

Development of the Guidelines is fraught with lobbying battles by different food industry groups. Some consumer and environmental advocates wanted recommendations that would reduce the impact on the environment, but Congress lobbied against that proposal.

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