McGovern: House GOP Attacks on Dietary Guidelines Put Politics Ahead of Healthy Food for Families and Kids
WASHINGTON, D.C. – At today’s House Agriculture Committee hearing on the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for America report, Congressman Jim McGovern (MA-02) – a senior House Democrat and Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Nutrition Subcommittee – pushed back on criticism from House Republicans.
“At the end of the day, healthier people mean lower healthcare costs and stronger communities. So it is extremely disappointing that Republicans on this committee want to play politics with these dietary guidelines,” Congressman McGovern said. “These guidelines help to create a roadmap for supporting healthy food for kids in school and families in need as well as helping to prevent diet-related health conditions, like obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
“With nearly 1 in 3 of America’s school-age children and adolescents overweight or obese and more than 1 in 3 American adults suffering from cardiovascular disease and diabetes, Congress should not be turning these dietary guidelines into a political football,” McGovern added.
“Some of the biggest critics of these guidelines are from industries that produce the least healthy foods. The reality is that if we all improved our diets, we’d live longer, more productive lives and we’d see our health care spending go down significantly on a number of chronic and preventable diseases. I urge my colleagues to focus on the facts and support the strong process led by USDA and HHS as we move forward with these guidelines.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are preparing to release the 2015 edition of the Dietary Guidelines and while the guidelines have yet to be finalized, they will be similar in many key respects to those of past years. Fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains and lean meats and other proteins, and limited amounts of saturated fats, added sugars and sodium remain the building blocks of a healthy lifestyle.
These guidelines were created with input by nutrition and medical experts and practitioners—the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee—as well as comments from the public, and thousands of scientific papers.
HHS and USDA required the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee to conduct a rigorous, systematic and transparent review of the current body of nutrition science. Following an open process over 19 months, documented for the public on DietaryGuidelines.gov, the external expert committee submitted its report to the Secretaries of HHS and USDA. HHS and USDA are considering the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, along with comments from the public and input from federal agencies, as they develop the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans to be released later this year.
The full text of Congressman McGovern’s opening statement at today’s hearing is below.
As Prepared For Delivery:
“I want to thank Secretary Vilsack and Secretary Burwell for being with us today and for both of your respective agencies’ work on the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s report. I know it’s no simple undertaking and requires months of scientific analysis, consideration of thousands of stakeholder comments, and thoughtful collaboration among Committee members and Agency staff.
“I also want to say that I appreciate the process that the Advisory Committee went through. I think it was a solid process, one that was open and included many opportunities for the public to weigh in.
“As someone who is deeply concerned about ending hunger, both here in this country and around the world, I want to offer a few thoughts on the recommendations.
“On an HHS blog post yesterday, I saw that the issues of sustainability were off the table for inclusion in the final guidelines. I get why that’s the case, given that sustainability seems to be such a dirty word for some of my colleagues. But this is an important issue. So let’s be clear. What the Advisory Committee report is referring to when it talks about “sustainability” are the patterns of eating that promote health and well-being and provide food security for the today’s population while sustaining human and natural resources for future generations.
“So, I think we ought to be talking about sustainability when we’re talking about issues of diet and food security. I do think that it’s important that we at least start a conversation about this issue in the context of dietary guidelines.
“And I also think that both of your testimonies do a good job of emphasizing the importance of nutrition on disease prevention and putting these recommendations in that context. In Congress, we ought to be focusing more on prevention as a way to reduce health care costs and improve overall well-being and economic productivity.
“We should be highlighting what the science says on good nutrition for our children and our families.
“I have an op-ed here from today’s issue of The Hill from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association which I’d like to insert into the record.
“It talks about the importance of the dietary guidelines and the soundness of the science used to inform them. Why is it such a radical idea that we want to give our kids the most nutritious food?
“As a parent, I appreciate that these recommendations are based on sound science and are supported by doctors and other leading medical professionals.
“You know, some of the biggest critics of these guidelines are from industries that produce the least healthy foods. The reality is that if we all improved our diets, we’d live longer, more productive lives and we’d see our health care spending go down significantly on a number of chronic and preventable diseases.
“And, as you begin to put together the final 2015 Dietary Guidelines, I really encourage you to keep the health and well-being of kids at the forefront. I appreciate what you and your agencies have done so far to get to this point and I look forward to seeing the final product later this year.”