Washington Insider-- Thursday

Controversial Dietary Guidelines

Here's a quick monitor of Washington farm and trade policy issues from DTN's well-placed observer.

USDA Opens Signup For Quality Loss Adjustment (QLA) Disaster Help

USDA opened signup for the Quality Loss Adjustment (QLA) Program to provide assistance to producers who suffered eligible crop quality losses due to hurricanes, excessive moisture, floods, drought, tornadoes, typhoons, volcanic activity, snowstorms, and wildfires occurring in calendar years 2018 and 2019.

USDA also published a final rule for the effort in Federal Register January 6.

USDA also amended provisions for the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+) to be consistent with the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020, by adding excessive moisture and drought occurring in 2018 and 2019 as qualifying disaster events and clarifying eligibility of sugar beets.

USTR Formally Publishes Changes to Section 301 Tariff Actions In Airbus Dispute

The U.S. has now published a notice in the Federal Register outlining the changes to its Section 301 tariffs relative to the Airbus dispute with the European Union (EU).

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) announced the adjustments December 30 and they will take effect January 12, according to the notice.

Additional goods from France and Germany will be subject to additional tariffs under the action, USTR said, including aircraft manufacturing parts from France and Germany, certain non-sparkling wine from France and Germany, and certain cognac and other grape brandies from France and Germany.


Washington Insider: Controversial Dietary Guidelines

The USDA, HHS dietary guidelines are well known in schools and other institutions where they are used extensively by program administrators to evaluate the quality of their offerings and for other purposes. They are published widely as bulletins, posters, brochures, books, and — more recently — websites and social media.

The federal effort is long-standing — mainly begun after the U.S. military found many recruits significantly under nourished in World War I. They are also seen as important by the food industry which not only takes to heart at least some of their advice but also pushes back in many cases when the advice is unwelcome — as it sometimes is.

Not surprisingly, this guidance has changed frequently to reflect advances in science and the role of specific foods and nutrients. The earliest guidance promoted healthy food “groups,” food safety, food storage, and ensuring that people get adequate minerals and vitamins.

Today, it is much different. Beginning in 1977, after years of discussion, scientific review, and debate, the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs, led by Senator George McGovern formulated Dietary Goals for the United States that recommended reduction of obesity and controlled use of key foods such as refined and processed sugars and fats.

In response, some groups and individuals argued that available science was inadequate to support such specific recommendations. In response, USDA and Health and Human Services selected well known scientists from the two Departments to address the public's need for authoritative and consistent guidance. Later, the report turned increasingly to outside experts.

Last week, USDA and Health and Human Services, which every five years updates the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, released new recommendations that stuck with existing standards for sugar and alcohol, the Washington Post reported this week. Not everyone was pleased.

The two agency's scientific advisory committees had recommended Americans cut their consumption of both, citing — in the case of sugar—high rates of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancers, and — in the case of alcohol — growing evidence that consuming higher amounts of alcohol is associated with an increased risk of death. The group's recommendations — that sugar intake be limited to 6% of daily calories, instead of the current 10%, and that both men and women limit daily alcohol consumption to one drink a day — were rejected.

Although “the preponderance of evidence supports limiting intakes of added sugars and alcoholic beverages to promote health and prevent disease,” the report said, “the evidence reviewed since the 2015-2020 edition does not substantiate quantitative changes at this time.” In response, Marion Nestle, a professor emerita of nutrition and food studies at New York University, told the New York Times she was “stunned.” Elizabeth Mayer-Davis, chair of the department of nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, called it a “lost opportunity for a stronger public health message.”

The guidelines are no mere academic exercise, the Post argued. They have a tangible impact on the country's eating habits, affecting federal food programs such as the National School Lunch Program, military rations and food stamps, and influencing decisions by food producers. No surprise, then, that manufacturers of sugary beverages hailed the unchanged guidelines.

That this year's guidelines were issued in the midst of the unprecedented health threat of the COVID-19 pandemic — which has been particularly deadly for those with diet-related preexisting conditions such as obesity and diabetes — making them all the more galling. The Post charged that the committee's language will add to the damage by the this “science-averse administration.”

So, we will see. The overall dietary guidelines effort has become increasingly controversial over time, both as many of the health threats related to diets continue to increase and as the food industry becomes more sophisticated in its defense of its operations and products — and in efforts to counter government interventions in the definition of acceptable practices. These are issues and debates that affect large markets and groups and should be watched closely as they emerge, Washington Insider believes.

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