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Special Edition: 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Politics too influential in new Dietary Guidelines, says nutrition expert

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 02-Feb-2011
Last updated on 02-Feb-2011 at 18:01 GMT

The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans are still too heavily influenced by political interests – but the initial consumer messaging was ‘fantastic’, according to nutrition and public policy expert Marion Nestle.

For the first time ever, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans address the issue of obesity, acknowledging that overconsumption is a problem for the majority of the US population. But for the food industry, the message to eat less is potentially problematic.

Marion Nestle, professor in the department of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, told FoodNavigator-USA.com: “The politics of it still troubles me. I felt that I was greatly misled about what they were doing, because the first recommendations I saw were the ones for the general public.”

Those initial recommendations were summed up on a single piece of paper, headed with the message that consumers should enjoy their food, but simply eat less of it.

“The full document itself really just says the same thing that the 2005 Dietary Guidelines said, but it just said it in a clearer way – which is important,” Nestle said.

She added that it avoids upsetting sections of the food industry, however, by highlighting elements of food rather than whole foods.

“When it talks about what you are supposed to eat more of, it talks about food, but when it talks about what you are supposed to eat less of, it is really obfuscating and talks about SOFAS, this new acronym for solid fats and added sugars,” she said. “…If you are going to do what is right for the public here, you are going to offend the food industry…It was very disappointing to me because the selected messages for consumers were really fantastic.”

Nevertheless, Nestle said that those in the food industry were likely to be the most affected by the new guidelines.

“They make the food industry do things,” she said. “It will encourage schools to go in more of a plant-based direction and there’s a lot of money in that. And the processed food companies that supply foods to schools or public nutrition programs will scramble to help meet the dietary guidelines. They always have done. But ‘eat less’ is not nice for the food industry.”

The full 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans are available online here .

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