Call to action: Feds ignore science on saturated fats, poised to tighten restrictions in 2020-25 guidelines

Where is our dairy industry? No time to waste!

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By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, April 3, 2020

 WASHINGTON, D.C. — While Congress, USDA and HHS are all consumed by the health concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is moving forward full-steam-ahead with what looks like more restrictions on saturated fats to be announced in May. Meanwhile, dairy leadership organizations sit on the sidelines, just letting it happen.

According to the Nutrition Coalition, and this reporter’s own following of the DGA Committee process, the process has been flawed from beginning and has reached a critical juncture. There is an urgent need for the public to pay attention and get involved.

Many had hoped the Committee would review and include the sound science and revelations about the flaws in the saturated fat limits in the current dietary guidelines to remove those restrictions or improve them in the 2020-25 guidelines. But the opposite is occurring.

As reported previously in Farmshine, some of the very best and most rigorous science on saturated fats and in relation to dairy fats vs. cardiovascular disease have been excluded from the review process from the very beginning.

Unfortunately, the process that began in 2019 is poised to move Americans even further down the wrong road with even more restrictive fat rules that will govern and inform all institutional feeding and which heavily influence the foodservice industry. Even worse, farmer checkoff funds are forced, by USDA, to help promote these unhealthy guidelines.

While National Milk Producers Federation, International Dairy Foods Association, Dairy Management Inc., and other industry organizations are silent, the Nutrition Coalition, founded by Nina Teicholz, author of The Big Fat Surprise, is sounding the alarm.

“We need your help to ensure that the federal government not continue to ignore large, government-funded rigorous clinical trials — the “gold standard” of evidence — that could reverse decades of misguided nutrition policy on the subject of saturated fats,” writes Teicholz in a recent communication.

She’s right. From the beginning, the DGA Committee was formed, and the research pre-screened by USDA, in such a way that many of the best studies and minds have been excluded.

Processed With Darkroom

Part of the screening process used by USDA for science that will be included or excluded from Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee consideration is this curious item shown above: “Framed around relevancy to U.S. Federal  Policy”. Committee members in October asked for more information on this research screening criteria. USDA explained it to them and those watching that this refers to including only the research that “aligns with current federal policy.”

Interestingly, one of the criteria for screening the research the Committee can consider is that it must “align with current federal policy.”

This dooms the entire process to a slanted view that is entrenched in the flawed bureacracy right from the start!

During the recent meeting of the DGA Committee in March — the last such meeting before release of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) in May or June 2020 — the Committee failed to consider any of this evidence on saturated fat.

Instead, the committee announced it had found the link between saturated-fats consumption and cardiovascular disease to be “strong,” for both children and adults.

In fact, the committee recently proposed lowering the caps on saturated fat even further, from the current 10% of calories down to 7%!

“These conclusions ignore the entire last decade of science, during which a growing number of scientists have concluded that the caps on saturated fats are not supported by the science,” Teicholz points out.

She cites the work of a group of leading scientists who have reviewed the research on saturated-fats and released a consensus statement.

“Scientists are concluding that the most rigorous and current science fails to support a continuation of caps on saturated fats,” writes Teicholz. “So, why is the current DGA Committee — yet again — simply rubber-stamping the status quo and ignoring the science?”

The Nutrition Coalition is working fervently to expose the flaws in the process the DGA Committee is using under the USDA Food Nutrition Services umbrella. This in turn is what is used by USDA and HHS to govern what Americans eat.

These are not just “guidelines”, these are edicts to which everything from school lunches to military provisions are tied.

In fact, even farmers are tied to these guidelines as the dairy checkoff program leaders maintain they cannot promote whole milk because they are governed by USDA to stick to the guidelines, forcing farmers to mandatorily fund this completely flawed and unscientific “government speech.”

Americans deserve a recommendation on dietary saturated fat that is based on the most current and rigorous science available, and the Nutrition Coalition is issuing a call to action for Americans to join them in calling on the 2020 DGA Committee to critically review the most up-to-date evidence and modify its position on saturated fats accordingly.

“When we refer to “rigorous science,” we mean the data from well-controlled, randomized, clinical trials—the type of evidence that can demonstrate cause and effect,” writes Teicholz. “These trials were conducted on some 75,000 people addressing the question: do saturated fats cause heart disease? The results are that fats have no effect on cardiovascular or total mortality. This evidence has never been directly reviewed by any DGA committee.

“Ignoring evidence in order to preserve the status-quo is not acceptable,” she continues. “It’s not good policy, and it has not been good for the health of the American people. With the next iteration of the guidelines, your help is more crucial than ever to ensure that the USDA critically review the most up-to-date evidence and modify the government’s position on saturated fats to reflect the science accurately.”

Meanwhile, the dairy industry leaders continue to drag their collective feet.

As reported in Farmshine over the past few years, the call to action and support for healthy recommendations that consider the science on saturated fats and the goodness of whole milk, for example, has been largely pursued by grassroots efforts while industry organizations either fall in lockstep with the guidelines or stay neutral on the sidelines.

Once again, it will be up to the grassroots to get involved, for the public to be aware and get involved, for the Congress to be contacted, informed and involved.

How many times have we heard industry leaders shrug their shoulders and say “it all hinges on the Dietary Guidelines”?

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When presented at the October DGA meeting with the first 12,000 names on the “Bring the choice of Whole Milk Back to Schools” petition (now numbering close to 30,000 online and by mail), Brandon Lipps, USDA Deputy Under Secretary of Food Nutrition Services, gave this response: “We have to see the science start coming together and be sure to bring everyone in… into the process.” Now it appears the Dietary Guidelines that control food at school, daycare, work settings, military, and many other foodservice and institutional feeding settings will be even MORE restrictive allowing even LESS of the healthy fat we — especially our children — need. The fat we eat is not the fat we get! Why is USDA moving us further in the wrong direction and excluding the science on this?! Act now. There are links in this article to speak out. Sign the Whole Milk in Schools petition also!

If there is even a chance that our children can have whole milk and healthy meals at school, that farmers can use their mandatory checkoff to promote the true healthfulness of whole milk and full-fat dairy foods, this biased process of DGA Committee guidelines has got to be challenged in a big way.

Here’s how you can help.

Contact your Senators and Representatives in Congress with a simple message. Ask them to please ensure that USDA is not ignoring the science on saturated fats.

Below is a message that the Nutrition Coalition suggests, which you or your organization can adapt and share with others in communicating with members of Congress:

Please urge the agencies in charge of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), the USDA and HHS, to stop ignoring large clinical trials-the “gold standard” of evidence – that could reverse decades of misguided caps on saturated fats.

Shockingly, none of this evidence has ever been reviewed by any expert committee overseeing the science for the Guidelines. In fact, the current committee is pushing to lower the caps even further.

This is extremely alarming given that a growing number of prominent nutrition scientists have concluded the evidence shows that saturated fats have no effect on cardiovascular or total mortality. In fact, a recent panel of leading scientists reviewed the data and in a groundbreaking consensus statement, soon to be published in a medical journal, found that the science fails to support a continuation limits on saturated fats.

The current DGA committee appears to be one-sided and biased on this issue.

Please urge the USDA to stop ignoring the science and give serious consideration to lifting the caps on saturated fat for the upcoming 2020 DGA.

An easy way to do this online is available at this “take action” link https://www.nutritioncoalition.us/take-action

Or find the name and contact information for your Senators and Representative at this link and contact them that way https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members

Also, comment at the Federal Register docket for the DGA Committee by May 15, 2020. The sooner, the better, because the committee is expected to make its recommendations in May. Submit a comment to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee here https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=FNS-2019-0001

Also take this opportunity to sign this petition to “Bring the Choice of Whole Milk Back to Schools” at https://www.change.org/p/bring-whole-milk-back-to-schools

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Child nutrition reauthorization sparked in D.C.

Military insights suggest backtracking, but disappointing answers given on school lunch and milk fat

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, April 26, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The last time a childhood nutrition authorization was passed by Congress was in 2010: The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. A decade later, the Senate Ag Committee held a hearing last Wednesday (April 10) on perspectives in childhood nutrition. 

Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said this is the first step in the reauthorization of the $30 billion in mandatory and discretionary childhood nutrition programs he wants examined and passed this year.

The hearing panels included representatives of federal agencies, state and community food programs, and the national childhood health program.

Most of the discussion centered on ways to streamline programs, increase enrollment that has been declining since 2010, and provide more flexibility.

There were a few eye-opening highlights and some discussion related to milk.

Chairman Roberts said in his opening statement: “One size fits all does not work for all.

Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) stated that, “Whether it’s a mother getting enough calcium to insure healthy bones for her baby, or making sure a 10-year-old isn’t fighting hunger pains in math class, child nutrition is about building a stronger future. It’s also important to our national security.”

Stabenow then revealed how and why the National School Lunch Program began 80 years ago, and what the concerns are today — two decades after the saturated fat limitations were introduced and a decade after the last reauthorization under the leadership of President Obama and Secretary Vilsack, when the screws were further tightened on milk choices and other aspects in 2009-10.

“Interestingly, the National School Lunch program was created in the 1940s because General Lewis Hershey came before Congress to explain that recruits were being rejected due to malnutrition,” said Stabenow. 

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.)

“Today, over 750 retired Generals, and other military leaders, are sounding alarm bells again, this time because young adults are too overweight to serve,” she stated. “With 14% of children as young as 2 showing signs of obesity, we have to address this issue early and everywhere.”

That said, Sen. Stabenow touted the “tremendous progress in the past 20 years in schools and daycares. It is vital to move forward, not backward,” she stated, while in her next breath saying that “obesity in adolescents continues to rise while over 12 million kids do not have enough to eat.”

She touted the need for greater enrollment in the National School Lunch Program so kids can have access to that “better” lunch, breakfast, after school snacks and even supper. She talked about a “veggie van” driving out into communities. She cited the Women Infant and Children (WIC) program as critical to first stages of life.

But when her opening statement was said-and-done, Sen. Stabenow again touted “the progress made in 2010” and said several times “we don’t want to backtrack while streamlining these programs.”

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.)

Toward the end of the session, Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.) brought up “the science of milk” and addressed his question specifically to Dr. Olanrewaju Falusi, a pediatrician who is director of the Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C.

It was not surprising that the most important question of the day got the most disappointing and predictable answer. 

After hearing Dr. Falusi present her comments about how early childhood diets are responsible for critical programming of lifelong metabolism, brain development, and educational outcomes, Sen. Casey addressed Dr. Falusi as follows:

“There’s been much discussion in Pennsylvania about the ability of schools to serve whole milk to students. What does ‘the science’ say about the appropriate levels of whole milk consumption?” the Democratic Senator from Pennsylvania asked.


Dr. Olanrewaju Falusi, a pediatrician who is director of the Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C.

Predictably, Dr. Falusi replied: “As a pediatrician, I recommend to my patients that they drink water or low-fat or fat-free milk. We know that milk has many benefits from protein and calcium and Vitamin D. We also know, though, that lower fat and lower sugar in diets are healthier for children.”

Dr. Falusi continued matter-of-factly: “What we would admonish, from the American Academy of Pediatrics, is that the standards for school nutrition programs — including the type of milk served — really be based on the science, and the science is that lower fat and lower sugar are what we should be advocating for children. And we do encourage the USDA to rely on the nutrition experts and to look at a number of studies for those guidelines.”

Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) asked about students turning to competitive foods when the school lunch does not appeal or satisfy. She addressed her concern to USDA Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, Brandon Lipps.

Lipps replied that the government seeks a balance between the school lunch and “competing foods” allowed on campus. He also noted they are “looking to see that kids are not leaving the school lunch line to buy competitive foods elsewhere on campus. But we’re not making the schools or states be the food police.”

Sen. Fischer asked: What are the foodservice professionals telling you? Are kids eating the school lunches?



Brandon Lipps, USDA Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services

Lipps replied that the “schools are very positive on the flexibilities in the final rule… It’s not a major change, just a comfort in long-term planning. Schools have to buy a long way out to plan their menus in the way that we require them to do. So they’re glad to have finality on the flexibility” (for example, they have flexibility to serve 1% flavored milk instead of only fat-free).

In response to the suggestion that the nutrition standards are “no good.” Lipps stated that, “We put in a calorie limit in 2009, and if the kids don’t eat half the food on their plate, and if they are getting half of the maximum calories that we provide them, if that’s happening, then that’s a problem.”

USDA is monitoring this, said Lipps: “As you know, the same is true, particularly with milk and the nutrients that it provides, so we are going to continue to listen and see if further flexibility is needed on that front.” 

Repeatedly, the 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act was cited for making “historic changes” that led to “greater consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grains as encouraged by USDA.” But at the same time, panelists repeatedly said fewer eligible families and children use the programs today compared with before 2010, and that obesity and diabetes and hunger are rising in our youth.  

When asked by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) about school waste related to the 2010 changes, USDA Under Secretary Lipp said flexibility in the final rule on whole grains, sodium and 1% low-fat flavored milk went a long way toward changing that.

“I don’t think we have anyone telling us we need a major change in the nutrition meal pattern requirements for the school meal, but they do want flexibility,” said Lipp.

Sen. Ernst also noted the concerns about portion sizes being the same for a first-grader as an eighth-grader. “School foodservice professionals say they want the flexibility to vary it,” she said. “Right now, booster clubs are bringing in food for athletes who are not getting enough. And with mandated portions and mandated nutrition requirements, we are seeing a lot of food waste, what can USDA do?”

Lipp replied that USDA will continue to “look and listen.”

Josh Mathismeier, Director of Nutritional Services for Kansas City public schools and Mike Halligan, CEO of God’s Pantry Food Banks, based in Lexington, Kentucky, said participation would increase if they could take the food to the people instead of forcing the people to congregate to access the food.

Some states have actually hired market research firms to do focus groups with eligible families to learn how to increase their enrollment.

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