WASHINGTON – Federal dietary guidance for Americans still overlooks the importance of lean meat as part of a healthy diet, several meat industry representatives said in response to the release of theScientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee(DGAC). The DGAC makes recommendations that will serve as the basis for the eighth edition of the
Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Every five years, theDietary Guidelines for Americansare updated and published jointly by the Department of Health and Human Services and US Department of Agriculture.

“The overall body of evidence examined by the 2015 DGAC identifies that a healthy dietary pattern is higher in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low- or non-fat dairy, seafood, legumes, and nuts; moderate in alcohol (among adults); lower in red and processed meat; and low in sugar-sweetened foods and drinks and refined grains,” the DGAC wrote in theadvisory report.

The report also stated that “for conclusions with moderate to strong evidence, higher intake of red and processed meats was identified as detrimental compared to lower intake.”

“We appreciate the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s (DGAC) recognition of the important role that lean meat can play in a healthy balanced diet, but lean meat’s relegation to a footnote ignores the countless studies and data that the committee reviewed for the last two years that showed unequivocally that meat and poultry are among the most nutrient-dense foods available,” said Barry Carpenter, president and CEO of the North American Meat Institute (NAMI). “Nutrient-dense lean meat is a headline, not a footnote.”

“The Committee’s contradictory advice to reduce processed meats is also non-sensical, especially given data the committee reviewed about the Mediterranean diet,” he added.

Carpenter noted that followers of the Mediterranean diet consume as many processed meats as included in the USDA’s food patterns.

The National Pork Board released a statement reminding consumers that meat, including pork, is nutrient dense and not over consumed on average in the United States.

“More than 60 percent of the US population is consuming the Protein Food Group at or below recommended intake levels,” NPB said. “Scientific evidence shows that eating lean, high-quality protein like pork can help people lose or maintain weight by contributing to feeling full and by preserving lean muscle.”

The DGAC also addressed the issue of sustainability, a topic meat industry stakeholders argued the committee in unqualified to consider. In its report, the committee said: “The major findings regarding sustainable diets were that a diet higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in calories and animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with less environmental impact than is the current US diet.”

The NPB noted that pork production’s carbon footprint represents 0.35 percent of total US greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

"Compared with 50 years ago, farmers are now using less land (78 percent) and water (41 percent) per pound of pork produced," the Board added.

Carpenter said if the federal government believes Americans should consider sustainability when making choices about what to eat, guidance should come from subject matter experts.

“As NAMI has pointed out in previous comments to the committee, the Dietary Guidelines Committee’s charter tasked them with reviewing nutrition science, which is the field from which Committee members were selected," Carpenter noted. “The Committee’s foray into the murky waters of sustainability is well beyond its scope and expertise. It’s akin to having a dermatologist provide recommendations about cardiac care.”

The Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee was submitted to the Secretaries of Health and Human Services and Agriculture. The public comment period for the advisory report is through midnight on April 8, 2015. A public meeting is scheduled for March 24. Registration is expected to open on or about March 9.