Congress Proposes to Freeze Nutrition Advice in Time

Statement of CSPI Nutrition Policy Director Margo G. Wootan


Once again, some in Congress are trying to use the appropriations process to turn back scientific progress on nutrition and provide favors for politically powerful food companies.

Riders tucked into House Appropriations bills seek to interfere with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans—the government’s nutrition advice and the basis for many food policies and programs. The riders would freeze nutrition advice in 2010—and forbid the federal agencies overseeing the process to take into account many advances in scientific knowledge in the five years since the last guidelines were published.

This is basically a repeat of earlier attempts by meat producers, who do not want the guidelines to recommend less meat consumption or to acknowledge the environmental benefits of diets lower in meat. But the amendment is actually far broader, and would absurdly gag the government from making a number of the common-sense recommendations made by the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. The Members of Congress behind these riders would forbid the government from pointing to a reduced risk of heart disease or type 2 diabetes as a rationale for its core dietary recommendation to eat diets rich in fruits, vegetables, or whole grains, for instance. Nor could the government update its advice about physical activity at all, despite a growing body of evidence about its disease-reducing benefits.

The same politicians also want to halt the progress that USDA and schools are making to lower sodium in school meals and to use more whole grains instead of refined white flour in breads, rolls, and pastas.

There’s a reason citizens consult physicians or dietitians when they want advice about what to eat or feed their kids, as opposed to calling their local politicians. Congress is really good at going to bat for agribusiness, but not so good at science.