Does Big Food Influence Food Guidelines?

usdaSusanBiconBy Susan Brown
Health & Wellness Editor

American Dietary Guidelines are formed by the Dietary Guidelines Committee in conjunction with recommendations made by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services. Okay, that sounds reasonable enough from the outset. But when you look at who actually sits on that committee, you may be surprised to learn that the committee is largely made up members with financial ties to the food industry and has included members from McDonald’s, Coca Cola, the Sugar Association, the American Meat Institute, the pharmaceutical industry, the egg and dairy boards and various candy manufacturers. The answer then is that Big Food has a tremendous amount of influence on dietary guidelines that may deleteriously affect our overall long term health and longevity.

On to the next question – Should the committee that helps the federal government draw up our dietary guidelines be dominated by members with ties to Big Food? As the American Dietary Guidelines form the basis of all federal food programs, including the National School Lunch Program, and is the most influential and relied upon source of nutrition information for millions, one would question whether corporate interests come before public health. One AskTheNursesimply needs to consider the alarming state of a very large percentage of Americans with chronic poor health and the skyrocketing levels of obesity, type 2 diabetes and other diet related diseases to realize that the epidemic proportions of chronic disease is fueled by poor nutritional advice and unhealthy food choices. It appears that letting profit driven companies write the guidelines that pad their bottom lines is not only a conflict of interest, it is profoundly compromised and definitely not in the best interest of public health.

So in the matter of wealth vs. health, pro-industry bias is not only winning but exacting a terrible toll, as our dietary decisions are heavily influenced by the food industry, government policy and our own personal knowledge or lack thereof. Even as the food industry is well aware of the effects of their products on public health and their manipulation of consumer dietary habits, they continue to actively lobby state and federal politicians and spend billions on advertising and promotion to limit any negative public image and protect their commercial interests and, above all, their profits.

It appears the only way to reorient the nation’s health toward prevention, wellness and self care is to be your own best health advisor when it comes to nutrition choices. We make dozens of decisions every day about our food choices based on income, taste, nutritional beliefs and other factors. Some question whether we have lost our ability to make informed decisions about what we eat, allowing these decisions to made by big food producers. Unfortunately, accurate and impartial dietary advice based on the latest scientific research is strongly protested by the powerful food and drug industries. Add to that the fact the USDA is not only responsible for the dietary advice, it also has the responsibility to support and promote the agricultural industry.

On a positive note, there are organizations such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Union of Concerned Citizens, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and the Center for Food Safety that actively work on the public’s behalf to counterbalance corporate interests and positively influence nutrition and food quality policy. So armed with this knowledge, where does a health conscious consumer turn for healthy nutritional advice? New dietary guidelines are scheduled to be released this fall along with changes to food labels. Many hope to see an emphasis on plant based diets, a focus on fiber-rich whole foods and healthy fats, recommendations to eat less red meat and processed foods, and a definite reduction in sugar intake.

Recipe for Disaster: Scientists with Industry Ties Dominate Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.
Food Industry and Political Influences on American Nutrition. 
What the new U.S. dietary guidelines will probably advise Americans to eat. 
Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. 
Big Industries Influence USDA Food Guidelines. 

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