DGA Process Receiving Potato Input
April 9, 2014
The process of developing the federal government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) for 2015 is well under way. The potato industry is presenting the latest scientific information on nutritional benefits of potatoes to the advisory committee responsible for making recommendations for the new guidelines.
DGAs are a basic reference source for many federal food policies and programs such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) subsidized school lunches and its Women, Infants and Children (WIC) feeding program. Both the 2010 and 2005 DGAs have figured prominently in the potato industry’s argumentation against USDA anti-potato policies. In 2011 the USDA proposed restrictions on potatoes in school lunches that Congressional action nullified, but the agency remains steadfast in disallowing WIC recipients of vouchers for fresh produce to use them to purchase potatoes.
A 1990 law requires the DGA to be updated every five years to incorporate the newest nutritional findings. The current project is administered by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with support from USDA specialists. A Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee composed of 15 nationally recognized nutrition experts is in charge of gathering data, conducting meetings for public testimony and reviewing scientific evidence. Its report on recommendations is expected to be released next winter after three more public meetings this year. A period for public comment on the report will be opened next winter. The finished 2015 DGA reflecting both the advisory committee’s recommendation and the public input is scheduled for publication a year from next fall.
Comments on potato nutrition have already been submitted to the advisory committee by the U.S. Potato Board (USPB) of Denver and the Alliance for Potato Research and Education (APRE) of McLean, Va. One point stressed by the USPB is the nutrient density of potatoes including the high availability of potassium, which is typically underconsumed by Americans, at an extremely low cost. APRE pointed out that frozen potato products have been reformulated to eliminate partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and that levels of trans fatty acids have been sharply reduced in processed potatoes.
The advisory committee members are also serving on subcommittees addressing specific issues. Two subcommittees deal respectively with current status and trends in diet and health and with dietary patterns in relation to health outcomes. Another one is studying food and physical activity environments, and the title of another is “Diet and Physical Activity Behavior Change.” The final one, the Subcommittee on Food Sustainability and Safety, has designated Dr. Michael Hamm of Michigan State University (MSU) as a consultant. Dr. Hamm is the C. S. Mott Professor of Sustainable Agriculture with appointments in three MSU departments, Food Science and Human Nutrition; Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences; and Community Sustainability. He is also the director of MSU’s Center for Regional Food Systems, which is exploring the interweaving of food-based economic development and human health and environmental sustainability on regional scales.
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