Dietary Guidelines: USDA Conflicts of Interest

Dietary Guidelines: USDA Conflicts of Interest
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The mission of the U.S. Department of Agriculture is to promote agribusiness. At the same time, the USDA is the agency primarily tasked with developing the nutrition guidelines.

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Why do the federal Dietary Guidelines “sometimes favor the interests of the food and drug industries over the public’s interest in accurate and impartial dietary advice”? The first problem may be who’s in charge. “Potential conflicts of interest at the USDA.” The mandate of the U.S. Department of Agriculture is to promote agribusiness—but also give dietary advice. So, no conflict when it comes to fruits and veggies, but what about the stuff we’re supposed to eat less of, though? How can they say “Eat less meat and sugar,” for example, and still fulfill their primary mission to promote these products?

That may be why the “Eat more” messaging recommendations are clear. “Increase vegetable and fruit intake,” period. But when it comes to “Eat less” messaging, recommendations resort to speaking in code, talking only about biochemical components. “Reduce intake of solid fats (major sources of saturated and trans fatty acids).” But what does that translate into, in terms of actual foods to avoid?

Let’s break the code: “Reduce intake of saturated fat” means reduce intake of cheese, ice cream, pizza, and chicken.

And “Reduce trans fats” means reduce intake of cakes, cookies, animal products, and margarine—but they can’t just come out and say that.

In their letter to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, the National Pork Board, in what almost sounds like a threat, “cautions the Committee against making any decisions which would limit the ability of Americans to choose [more pork].”

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Peter Mellor.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to thomas pix / Flickr

Why do the federal Dietary Guidelines “sometimes favor the interests of the food and drug industries over the public’s interest in accurate and impartial dietary advice”? The first problem may be who’s in charge. “Potential conflicts of interest at the USDA.” The mandate of the U.S. Department of Agriculture is to promote agribusiness—but also give dietary advice. So, no conflict when it comes to fruits and veggies, but what about the stuff we’re supposed to eat less of, though? How can they say “Eat less meat and sugar,” for example, and still fulfill their primary mission to promote these products?

That may be why the “Eat more” messaging recommendations are clear. “Increase vegetable and fruit intake,” period. But when it comes to “Eat less” messaging, recommendations resort to speaking in code, talking only about biochemical components. “Reduce intake of solid fats (major sources of saturated and trans fatty acids).” But what does that translate into, in terms of actual foods to avoid?

Let’s break the code: “Reduce intake of saturated fat” means reduce intake of cheese, ice cream, pizza, and chicken.

And “Reduce trans fats” means reduce intake of cakes, cookies, animal products, and margarine—but they can’t just come out and say that.

In their letter to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, the National Pork Board, in what almost sounds like a threat, “cautions the Committee against making any decisions which would limit the ability of Americans to choose [more pork].”

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Peter Mellor.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to thomas pix / Flickr

Doctor's Note

Be sure to check out all my other videos on industry influence and dietary guidelines. And be sure to check out my blog post: Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board accused of making illegally deceptive claims

For more context, check out my associated blog post: Dietary Guideline Graphics: From the Food Pyramid to My Plate, Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate, and PCRM’s Power Plate.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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