07.07.15

Chairmen Roberts, Alexander Urge Sound Science in 2015 Dietary Guidelines

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., today sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and to U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services Sylvia Burwell, urging them to base the final 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans on “sound scientific evidence and medical knowledge” and limit “agenda-driven” recommendations to nutrition and diet.

In February, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) sent to the Secretaries a nearly 600-page scientific report, which serves as a recommendation to the agencies as they develop the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Expressing strong concerns that the DGAC scientific report included recommendations not based on modern science, the Chairmen urged the Secretaries “to consider recommendations that are based on a preponderance of current scientific and medical knowledge, promote healthy diets, and reduce chronic disease risk for Americans.” 

Both agencies will examine the report and public comments before jointly releasing the official 2015 Dietary Guidelines, which will provide nutrition recommendations for a variety of government programs, from school lunch programs to food allowances for U.S. military troops. The guidelines should be “independent, unbiased, and rooted in a preponderance of science to ensure policies impacting Americans every day are sound, practical, and able to be implemented to affect and influence dietary patterns and nutritional choices,” the Chairmen wrote. The Guidelines are updated every five years.

 The following is the text of the letter sent today, July 7, 2015: 

We write regarding the forthcoming 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans to strongly encourage the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Agriculture (USDA) to publish only nutritional and dietary information and guidelines that are based in sound scientific evidence and current medical knowledge. By law, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans must contain nutritional and dietary information and guidelines for the general public, must be based on the preponderance of scientific and medical knowledge current at the time of publication, and must be promoted by each Federal agency in carrying out any Federal food, nutrition, or health program. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are the basis for nutritional information utilized by millions of Americans; therefore, it is critical that you ensure these guidelines are developed using widely agreed upon, consensus-based scientific and medical research related to nutrition and diet. 

We have significant concerns that the Scientific Report written by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (Advisory Committee) included recommendations that are not based on a preponderance of scientific and medical knowledge. As you develop and finalize the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, it is essential that the final report is of the utmost scientific integrity, and also builds upon previously established guidance documents that have demonstrated evidence of improved health and dietary patterns among Americans.  

The Dietary Guidelines provide the basis of nutritional information for a number of federal programs under HHS and USDA, some of which include the Food and Drug Administration’s Nutrition Facts labeling initiative, the Food and Nutrition Service’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, nutrition facts labeling and food safety education conducted by the Food Safety and Inspection Service, food allowances for U.S. military, and child and foster care guidelines.  These and other federal programs, as well as nutrition professionals, medical professionals, and consumers, rely on the Dietary Guidelines to be independent, unbiased, and rooted in a preponderance of science to ensure policies impacting Americans every day are sound, practical, and able to be implemented to affect and influence dietary patterns and nutritional choices.  

As you review the multitude of public comments that have been submitted, consider input from federal agencies, and work to finalize the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, we encourage you to consider recommendations that are based on a preponderance of current scientific and medical knowledge, promote healthy diets, and reduce chronic disease risk for Americans. It is critical that Congress and the American people have confidence in the integrity of the final product, and that the 2015 Dietary Guidelines are not agenda-driven, but are based in strong, consistent science and current medical knowledge that will effectively result in healthy dietary patterns.  

Sen. Roberts serves as chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, which has jurisdiction over the Department of Agriculture. Sen. Alexander serves as chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, which has jurisdiction over the Department of Health and Human Services. Roberts also is a member of the Committee. 

Sens. Roberts and Alexander in March sent a bipartisan letter to the Secretaries, urging them to extend the public comment period for the DGAC scientific report.

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Press Contact

Meghan Cline (Roberts): 202-224-2035
Margaret Atkinson (Alexander): 202-224-2465