Congressmen Anthony Brindisi (D-NY) and Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA) led a bipartisan coalition of 55 members of the House of Representatives to the Secretaries of USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Oct. 9, urging the agencies to consider the most recent nutrition science and health research on the effects of dairy fat when finalizing the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs).
The DGAs are updated every five years after a review process that includes the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) written recommendations and advisory report and multiple opportunities for both public and stakeholder input. Recent science indicating beneficial or neutral effects of dairy fat is again missing from the studies the DGAC considered when making its recommendations to USDA and HHS earlier this year, as it was from the 2015 DGAC report.
“As clearly demonstrated by its recommendations, the DGAC identified the importance of dairy foods for good diets and health,” the group said in its letter. “However, we were surprised to see that the committee did not appear to thoroughly consider several recent scientific studies and analyses that show benefits of dairy foods at all fat levels – not just low-fat or fat-free varieties.” The group then urged the USDA and HHS secretaries to “review studies that have demonstrated beneficial or neutral effects of dairy foods at all fat levels” when drafting the 2020 DGAs, noting again the Advisory Committee’s own finding that “[a] major part of encouraging healthier diets is to increase Americans’ dairy consumption.”
NMPF applauded Reps. Brindisi, Thompson, and the other members for calling for the inclusion of the most recent science on dairy fat. “Since the guidelines are only updated once every five years, it’s critical that they reflect the most updated nutrition science,” said NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern.
NMPF has actively participated in every step of the 2020 DGA review process. NMPF’s advocacy for fair treatment and consideration of the most up-to-date dairy scientific studies in the 2020 review includes submitting multiple rounds of written comments to USDA and HHS, delivering oral comments at DGAC public meetings, engaging directly with key department staff, and providing ways for dairy farmers and others to make their voices heard through NMPF’s Call to Action resource. It also collaborated with the International Dairy Foods Association on a video featuring NMPF member cooperative farmers explaining why they want dietary guidelines to reflect the latest science on fats. That video was shown directly to the White House and USDA on Oct. 30.
USDA and HHS are in the final stages of drafting the 2020 DGAs, which should be issued later this year or in early 2021. The guidelines have significant implications for numerous government policy areas, including guiding the types of milk allowed in school meal programs and setting the parameters for how nutrition programs are implemented and developed.