USDA, HHS to set dietary guidelines agenda after public comment
The Agriculture Department and the Health and Human Services Department will determine the agenda for developing the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans before calling for nominations for the advisory committee for the guidelines, USDA and HHS officials said Monday.
In the past, the advisory committee has determined the agenda, but now USDA and HHS officials will determine the agenda and then select a committe that can best address it, USDA Acting Deputy Undersecretary of Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Brandon Lipps and HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health Don Wright announced in a call to reporters.
The public will be invited to submit comments on the agenda beginning Wednesday for a 30-day period, they said.
Shifting the decisions about the agenda from the scientists named to the advisory committee to government officials is bound to elicit criticism that the decisions will become politicized with more input from industry, but Lipps and Wright said the shift was made in response to the National Academies of Science recommendations that there should be more transparency in the process.
The 2020 Dietary Guidelines wil focus on lifestages and eating patterns, beginning with the stage from birth to 24 months and ending with guidance for older Americans.
The focus will be on “what we eat and drink over time. It is not about focusing on individual foods and food groups but what we eat overall,” Lipps said.
Asking for public comments at the beginning of the process and selecting the topics in advance will help the government “better determine what scientific expertise is needed,” he added.
“The American taxpayer is an essential customer — indeed, a shareholder,” Lipps said in a news release that noted he will be the administrative lead for the 2020-2025 DGA. “We’re proud to be taking this important step forward towards greater transparency, and ensuring that the American public’s voice is heard throughout this process.”
Lipps also noted that the 2014 farm bill mandated that, starting with the 2020-2025 edition, the DGA provides guidance for women who are pregnant, as well as infants and toddlers from birth to 24 months.
“In addition to a focus on life stages, the topics and supporting questions for public comment reflect a continued focus on patterns of what we eat and drink as a whole, on average and over time, not on individual foods or food groups.”
The 2020-2025 DGA topics which USDA and HHS propose are based on four criteria:
Relevance — The topic is within the scope of the DGA and its focus on food-based recommendations, not clinical guidelines for medical treatment;
Importance — The topic has new, relevant data and represents an area of substantial public health concern, uncertainty, and/or knowledge gap;
Potential federal impact — There is a probability that guidance on the topic would inform federal food and nutrition policies and programs; and
Avoiding duplication — The topic is not addressed through existing evidence-based federal guidance (other than the Dietary Guidelines).
Other “new steps” will be added in the process, but they were not ready to be announced on Monday, Lipps said.
The Trump administration hopes to issue a call for nominations by late spring or early summer, Lipps said, noting that the plan is to release the new guidelines before the end of 2020.
In a background statement, USDA and HHS said, “Developed for health professionals, policy makers and nutrition educators, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans serves as the cornerstone of federal nutrition programs and policies, providing food-based recommendations to help prevent diet-related chronic diseases and promote overall health.”