WASHINGTON –The importance of meat and poultry in the diet was defended by the American Meat Institute in July 8 comments to the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (U.S.D.A.) and Health and Human Services (H.H.S.). A.M.I.’s opinions were given in response to the recent release of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Technical Report.

Meat and poultry is allocated to a relatively small part of the pyramid, yet the benefits from its share of the pyramid are significant, said A.M.I. Director of Scientific Affairs Betsy Booren, Ph.D., in her testimony.

She pointed out that in addition to protein, meat and poultry also are important and rich sources of micronutrients such as iron, selenium, Vitamins A, B12, and folic acid. These nutrients are not present in plant foods or, if they are, they have low bioavailibity. Supplementation, while useful, does not completely address issues of bioavailability.

During the May 2010 meeting of Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (Committee), a significant discussion that the meat, poultry, fish, eggs and nuts food group is currently consumed at or less than the current recommended amount also took place. This conclusion likely is a surprise to many who are under the mistaken impression that Americans over-eat meat and poultry products, Ms. Booren pointed out.

“As you develop the Dietary Guidelines, we urge you to word the recommendation in such a way that does not lead consumers to reduce their meat, poultry and beans consumption,” she said. “Language in the technical report recommending that consumers ‘moderate’ their meat and poultry consumption may be perceived as advice to ‘reduce’ their consumption, which could have unintended consequences by creating nutritional deficiencies.”

Concerns about unintended consequences are not a new concept to the Committee. At the April 2010 meeting, Committee member Dr. Eric Rimm discussed his concern that a recommendation to eat a low-fat diet in the 1970s led, in part, to over-consumption of simple carbohydrates and this change in diet may have contributed to Americans’ current obesity epidemic. A.M.I. encouraged the agencies to consider this with respect to meat and poultry guidelines and not create a similar mistake.

Some sections of the report that reveal a strong bias against processed meats, largely due to concerns about sodium levels in some products were also addressed by Ms. Booren. She said the industry is actively involved in efforts to reduce sodium in its products with more than 50% of the processed meat and poultry market undergoing recent sodium reduction reformulation.

Some companies are promoting their efforts through labeling “reduced sodium.” Others are handling it more quietly, fearing that such labeling is the adverse marketing equivalent of a “Mr. Yuck” sticker on a package. She relayed. In 1980, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans was first released and is the basis for federal nutrition policy and education. The Dietary Guidelines Committee’s technical report will serve as the basis for a revision of these guidelines. H.H.S. and U.S.D.A. are expected to publish their revisions later this year.

A.M.I. said it has been actively engaged in the development of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, participating in all six committee meetings and twice submitting detailed comments concerning sodium’s role in meat and poultry products and the health benefits of consuming animal-based proteins as part of a balanced diet.

To read Ms. Booren’s comments, visit http://www.meatami.com/ht/a/GetDocumentAction/i/60817.