In terms of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs), we will remain within the scope of our mandate in the 1990 National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act (NNMRRA), which is to provide “nutritional and dietary information and guidelines”… “based on the preponderance of the scientific and medical knowledge.” The final 2015 Guidelines are still being drafted, but because this is a matter of scope, we do not believe that the 2015 DGAs are the appropriate vehicle for this important policy conversation about sustainability.The announcement follows months of public debate after the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee this year included some discussion of environmental sustainability in its report, which provides the scientific basis for the guidelines that will be released later this year by USDA and DHHS.
As noted on Thursday, several colleagues and I recently had published a commentary in the journal Science, arguing that sustainability issues are just as much relevant to dietary guidance as physical activity or food security, both of which are widely accepted as in scope.
Even in today's announcement, the citation from the 1990 legislative authority broadly defines the scope as "nutritional and dietary information" (not merely nutritional information alone) based on "the proponderance of scientific and medical knowledge" (not merely medical knowledge alone). The decision makes sense primarily as a response to intense political pressure. As a result of today's decision, USDA and DHHS will enjoy some shelter from criticism in Congress this month.
The scientific community and the public will continue to discuss food choices and the environment together in the same breath. It is unavoidable to do so. The main impact of today's announcement is to make the 2015 DGA less relevant, uselessly silent on some of the most important food guidance questions of our time. The public will turn elsewhere for authoritative information on sustainability and diet.