Environmental impact should be part of dietary guidelines, groups say

More than 100 environmental and health food groups, nutritionists, and educators say they support the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s recommendation to factor the health of the environment when mapping out what Americans should and shouldn’t be eating.

Healthy School Food Coalition, Brighter Green and Friends of the Earth U.S. are behind the calls urging the Agriculture Department and the Department of Health and Human Services to factor in sustainability when drafting the final guidelines due out later this year.

The group sent a letter to the agencies’ secretaries quoting the advisory committee’s March report, which said found that the average U.S. diet has a larger environmental impact in terms of increased greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use and energy use than the healthy dietary pattern it suggests — one that’s rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, seafood, legumes and nuts; moderate in low- and nonfat dairy products and alcohol; and lower in red and processed meat, sugar-sweetened foods and beverages, and refined grains.

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The letter posted on the website MyPlateMyPlanet.org is signed by the Center for Food Safety, Food Democracy Now, the National WIC Association and Green America to name a few.

The advisory committee's decision to factor in sustainability for the first time in its report this year has sparked outrage from members of the meat industry, who say the panel appointed by USDA and HHS has neither the authority nor the expertise to make such a judgment. 

HHS and the USDA will use the committee's report and recommendations to draft the final guidelines for 2015.