AR-News: Food industry pushes "friendly" candidates for nutrition
unclewolf at olypen.com
Fri Aug 15 16:05:20 EDT 2003
Expect a food fight as U.S. revises dietary guidelines
LEILA ABBOUD, The Wall Street Journal
Friday, August 8, 2003
After months of behind-the-scenes jockeying by commodity groups and nutrition advocates, the federal government is expected to announce as early as Friday which scientists and other experts will revise the nation's dietary guidelines.
By law, the guidelines must be updated every five years to correspond to the latest scientific research. They usually come to 80 pages of dense nutrition information that aren't widely read by the public. But they are crucially important because all federal nutrition programs, including the school lunch program, are based on them. And they help determine not just what Americans eat but what food products they buy. That means that billions of dollars are at stake for the various segments of the nation's food industry, and even minor wording changes in the guidelines can send industry groups into a tizzy.
The guidelines will also affect the popular food pyramid put out by the Department of Agriculture. The pyramid revision, which is also going on this year, is done by USDA staff in a much more private process that doesn't enlist outside experts or offer chances for public comment.
The 13-member panel that will write the guidelines must include nutrition experts who are leaders in the fields of pediatrics, obesity, cardiovascular disease and public health, among other areas, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
But industry groups know the opinions of many of the experts, at least partly because many nutrition researchers are affiliated with them, serving on their boards, doing research and taking on speaking engagements. So the National Dairy Council, the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association, the Soft Drink Association and others have submitted the names of candidates they believe would favor their interests.
Most of the food and commodity groups, including those for meat, dairy, and sugar, declined to disclose their nominees to The Wall Street Journal. "We don't want to announce who we nominated because then that person goes into the selection process with a bull's-eye on their back," says Dan Murphy, a spokesman for the American Meat Institute.
Beyond the candidate-selection process, the industry is preparing ammunition for the scientific debate. Inspired by the success of the Atkins diet, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association is considering submitting research it has done on more moderate protein diets. The Wheat Foods Council says it plans to submit a report on the glycemic index, a measure of food's impact on blood sugar that has become a focus of diet techniques, to the committee. Judy Adams of the Wheat Council says it hopes the report will counter some of the carbohydrate-bashing now seen in such popular diets as the South Beach Diet. In 2000, the Wine Institute prepared a packet of scientific articles that included information on the cardiovascular benefits of drinking alcohol, and it plans to do so again.
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