Beef and other food business donations funding congressional meddling on nutrition

U.S. “Roundtable” for Sustainable Beef has No Seat for Consumer Groups

Industry wants watered down dietary guidelines advice on meat, sustainability

It’s payback time.

At least it certainly seems to be, according to a new analysis of campaign donations made by beef industry and other agribusiness executives and political action committees, conducted by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest, using data from the Center for Responsive Politics. The 30 Republican Senators who signed a March 12, 2015 letter critical of the advice in the report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee received more than a million dollars from the food industry between 2013 and 2014, with more than half of that total coming from the red meat industry. The seventy-one House signers of a similar letter received more than two million dollars, according to the analysis.

All but one Republican on the House Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee signed a letter critical of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee circulated by the meat and food industries. On the whole Appropriations Committee, 84 percent of food and agriculture sector contributions went to Republicans and 16 percent to Democrats. On the full Senate Appropriations Committee, 98 percent of food and agriculture money went to Republicans compared to 2 percent to Democrats.

“It’s largely the Republicans in the House and the Senate that are seeking to use the appropriations process as an all-included buffet to serve their food industry patrons special favors,” said CSPI regulatory affairs director Laura MacCleery. “But the government’s basic nutrition advice and nutrition policy should be based on sound science – not driven by the campaign clout of industries that profit from this unhealthy food environment.”

CSPI joins some of the country’s leading health and nutrition organizations in writing key leaders of the House Appropriations Committee to oppose amendments to two 2016 appropriations bills that would prohibit the federal government from using the latest science to inform the next edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The amendments would have the effect of virtually freezing the Guidelines in 2010, the last year it was updated, by setting an uncommonly high evidentiary standard even for otherwise non-controversial advice, such as advice to avoid diabetes and other diseases by selecting diets high in fruits, vegetables, or whole grains.