Dietary guidelines won’t change school meals
The Obama administration does not plan any changes to school meals rules following the release of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a key Agriculture Department official said today in a call to reporters.
The rules for the content of school meals were changed dramatically after the passage of the 2010 Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act to include many of the recommendations in the 2010 and 2015 dietary guidelines: less saturated fat and sugar and more lean meat and dairy, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains.
“We do not anticipate any changes required in the school meals program,” the official said.
The healthier school meal rules were championed by First Lady Michelle Obama but have been the subject of intense controversy. Their future will be a key element in reauthorization of the child nutrition programs. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., have said the committee will hold a markup on child nutrition programs in January. The House Education and the Workforce Committee, which has jurisdiction over child nutrition in the House, has not announced any markup plans.
In addition, the ChooseMyPlate.gov website has already been “enhanced” to reflect the dietary guidelines, the official added. An official noted that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is intended for use by professionals and said the guidelines need to be “translated” for consumers through programs such as My Plate.
USDA developed My Plate in 2010 to make it easier for consumers to understand government recommendations on how to achieve a balanced diet.
Meat industry groups today praised the guidelines for continuing to urge consumption of lean meat as part of a balanced diet.
“It is clear the agencies took great care in reviewing the science as well as comments on the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report to develop a common-sense policy document that all Americans can use to help them make healthy food choices,” said North American Meat Institute President Barry Carpenter.
It “should come as no surprise to health professionals, dieticians and nutritionists that the 2015 Dietary Guidelines recognize the importance of including chicken in a healthy diet,” said a spokesman for the National Chicken Council, adding that chicken is low in fat, high in protein and affordable.
Friends of the Earth said, “The administration has clearly put the financial interests of the meat industry over the weight of the science and the health of the American people.” But the environmental group also noted, “While none of the key recommendations specifically urge less meat consumption, the findings and portion size recommendations buried deep in the report suggest that Americans do in fact need to be eating less meat.”
The United Fresh Produce Association noted, “The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans strongly recommends that all Americans significantly increase their consumption of vegetables and fruit to improve their health. For the first time, and to reinforce the significance of eating more vegetables and fruits, this recommendation tops the list of ways to improve eating habits and health.”
The biggest changes in the guidelines are recommendations that Americans limit their intake of added sugars to 10 percent of daily consumption, and limit sodium to 2,300 milligrams per day compared to average consumption of 3,400 milligrams.
Officials from the Health and Human Services Department and the Agriculture Department declined to comment on whether the added sugars recommendation was a sign that the Food and Drug Administration will follow through on a proposal to change the Nutrition Facts panels on food products to note added sugars. An official said the decision is up to FDA.
HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell made the announcement, saying that one of the most important responsibilities of government is to “empower people with tools” to make decisions.
The guidelines, Burwell said, help to take the “guesswork” out of people’s decisions about what to eat to maintain their health.
The guidelines, she said “reflect the latest research and rigorous science” as well as input from officials and the public.
“When Americans make healthy choices, everyone saves money,” Burwell said, noting that the cost of diabetes alone is $240 billion per year, including $176 billion in direct medical costs.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has equal responsibility with Burwell for development of the guidelines, but he did not participate in the call. HHS and USDA trade off every five years which department is in charge of the guidelines; for 2015, HHS was in charge. Press officers asked that other officials on the call not be quoted by name.
–The Hagstrom Report