Omnibus calls for probe of Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee

The year-end government spending bill includes language that calls on Agriculture Secretary Tom VilsackThomas J. VilsackUSDA: Farm-to-school programs help schools serve healthier meals OVERNIGHT MONEY: House poised to pass debt-ceiling bill MORE to conduct a “comprehensive review” within 30 days of the the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the federally appointed panel of nutritionists that helps draft them.

The committee created an uproar earlier this year when it recommended Americans eat less meat because it’s better for the environment.

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The meat industry blasted the proposal, contending that the committee had neither the expertise nor the authority to weigh environmental factors in its recommendations that the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services use to help draft guidelines.

Vilsack and HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell ultimately caved under pressure from both lawmakers and industry groups and nixed the recommendation.

At a hearing in October, the department heads told members of the House Agriculture Committee that environmental concerns won’t be factored into the new guidelines for what Americans should and shouldn’t be eating.

To hold Vilsack and Burwell to their promise, lawmakers included language in the spending bill that bars the departments from finalizing the guidelines until they’ve ensured that each recommendation is based on significant scientific agreement and limited in scope to nutritional and dietary information.

The spending bill also dictated that members of the National Academy of Medicine will be selected to review how the advisory committee’s selection process can be improved, how nutritional evidence is compiled and how systematic reviews of longstanding dietary recommendations are conducted.