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Meat Lobby Peddles Doubt to Undermine Dietary Guidelines

By Michele Simon and Andy Bellatti

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, updated every five years, never fails to cause a stir. For the current revision, released in February, a federally appointed scientific committee — after a two-year review of the latest research and numerous public hearings — has recommended (PDF) lowering consumption of red meat and processed meat. Read rest at Al Jazeera America …

 

Media Coverage for Plant Foods Coalition and Dietary Guidelines

As I posted earlier this week, I submitted comments on behalf of new coalition of plant food companies to support the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s recommendations to lower red meat and processed meats and increased plant foods. I am pleased that the following media outlets picked on this story. More at: LessMeatMorePlants.com

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New Plant Foods Coalition Enters Dietary Guidelines Debate

Logos_Plant_Foods_Coalition_DGA_LetterEvery sector of the food industry–most of them unhealthy–has something to say about how Americans should eat. But we rarely hear the voices of healthier food companies in shaping the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. I organized this new coalition of plant food companies to help fill that void.

Research shows that more consumers are decreasing their meat consumption and turning to plant-based options. Therefore, it’s time for the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (revised every five years) to encourage this trend toward healthy eating. Today, this new food industry coalition submitted a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services, in response to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s report, making these main points:

  • We agree with the advisory committee that additional measures are needed to encourage consumption of fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet.
  • We support the advisory committee’s conclusion that the dietary guidelines should include a recommendation to “lower red and processed meats.”
  • The Dietary Guidelines for Americans should specifically recommend eating plant protein sources such as legumes, soy foods, wheat gluten, seeds, and nuts, in place of red and processed meats. 
  • Claims that red meat and processed meats are “nutrient dense” are misleading because they ignore all the harmful components of meat, and the fact that plants are often nutritionally superior.
  • We endorse the advisory committee’s recognition of sustainability as an essential component of federal dietary guidance, and that a shift away from animal foods towards a plant-based diet “is more health promoting and is associated with less environmental impact.”

You can read the entire letter (or the summary) and learn more about the coalition members at: www.LessMeatMorePlants.com. You can also submit your own comments before the May 8 deadline here.

Tell the feds: “Yes to less meat, more plants”

Science and public health could finally prevail in federal dietary advice

Every five years the federal government updates the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The idea is to help Americans eat right, while informing nutrition standards for food assistance programs such as school meals. The “Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee” (DGAC) has spent the past two years reviewing research and holding public hearings. The process is rigorous and the committee is not exactly radical.

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Big Beef’s jig is up

Federal dietary committee recommends eating less red meat. Will science finally trump politics?

You almost have to feel sorry for the beef industry. After enjoying decades of popularity as a staple of the all-American diet, the harsh realities behind unsustainable beef production and excessive consumption are finally coming to light. The latest red meat scare comes from the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) a scientific body formed every five years to review the latest research available to tell the American public how to eat right. In the past, the committee’s work has been undermined by members with conflicts of interest with the meat, egg and dairy industries. But this year’s committee pulled no punches, even extending its reach to environmental considerations for the first time. The recommendations are not the final word on the matter. Later this year, the federal government will issue its formal Dietary Guidelines for Americans after reviewing the committee’s research and public comments. Read rest at Al Jazeera America …

The food movement should learn from the propaganda industry

Earlier this month, the nation’s largest health charity, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, announced a $500 million commitment over the next decade to curb childhood obesity, adding to its previous spending of the same amount since 2007. A billion dollars over 18 years is a lot of money. But let’s place it in context: The soda lobby spent at least $100 million in five years on public relations alone, for advertising campaigns that thwart many of the policies the foundation supports. While we know that industry vastly outspends nonprofit advocacy groups on lobbying, new data reveals that spending on public relations may be even more important. Read rest at Al Jazeera America …

Is the Dietitians Association of Australia in the Pocket of Big Food?

New Report from Eat Drink Politics Exposes Conflicts of Interest in Australian Dietitians Group

coverJust as most western nations do, Australia suffers significantly from diet-related chronic diseases. Heart disease is the leading cause of death, killing one Australian every 12 minutes. Diabetes is also a serious health concern, with rising rates in recent years, according to the government.

The 2013 report, “And Now a Word from Our Sponsors,” also from Eat Drink Politics, found that the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in the United States has a serious credibility problem due to its myriad conflicts with the junk food industry. Sadly, a very similar situation exists within Australia’s dietetic profession, led by the Dietitians Association of Australia. Among the most troubling findings of the new report from Eat Drink Politics:

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Event – February 24 – Women in Leadership: Dynamic Career Paths in the Food Movement

nofruitJoin four women warriors who have fought Big Food with policy initiatives, defying gender and racial stereotypes in both the public and private sectors. Their work has strengthened the good food movement, and all have established successful careers despite the odds stacked against them. This interactive panel will share experiences and encourage food movement job seekers to tackle the challenges of pushing for a more progressive food systems agenda.

Panelists

Marion Nestle is Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. A pioneer in food politics and the author of numerous books, she will discuss her experience and knowledge in the academic and government sectors, the vast changes she has witnessed over the years, and share advice for students about opportunities in the food movement.

Michele Simon is a public health lawyer and president of Eat Drink Politics, a corporate watchdog consulting firm. She has been writing about the politics of food since 1996 and her book, Appetite for Profit, was published in 2006. She also offers legal guidance to small food companies with Foscolo and Handel, the Food Law Firm. She will discuss the role of lawyers and policy experts in the food movement and the need for advocates to get more political.

Nina F. Ichikawa is a writer, social justice advocate, and food policy expert who will discuss the “whitewashed history” of the food movement, her policy work with the USDA, and her vision for the Berkeley Food Institute where she has just been appointed policy director. Her writings on food policy and Asian American food, farmers, and retailers have been published in Amerasia Journal, Civil Eats, Al-Jazeera America and NBC News, as well as in “Eating Asian America”.

Moderator: Haven Bourque founded HavenBMedia to bring communications expertise to food system change. Her group develops communications strategies, trains spokespersons, and teaches social media skills for diverse organizations ranging from prestigious non-profits to small businesses, national corporations and community activists working to reform food systems around health and wellness, social justice and environmental conservation.

When: Tuesday February 24, 6:30-8:30pm
Where: Impact Hub Oakland (Omi Gallery) 2323 Broadway, Oakland (donations at door welcome)
RSVPs: 2/19 update: sorry but this event is over capacity!

Top 10 Legal Victories for the Food Movement in 2014

In my ongoing attempt to shine a light on the critical role that lawyers play in the food movement, here are just a few examples of legal victories this past year. As this list demonstrates, we need lawyers to both proactively change the law, and to defend against legal challenges. This was an especially good year for legal victories. So thank a lawyer! Continue reading →

Unilever Drops Mayo Lawsuit Giving Hampton Creek Another PR Boost

You almost have to feel sorry for Big Mayo. After getting slammed with negative press last month for its ill-conceived lawsuit against Hampton Creek, Unilever raised the white flag by dropping the case. But instead of burying the news late on a Friday, the company put out its release at 6pm on Thursday, at the end of what was a huge news day for Hampton Creek. The San Francisco start-up announced an additional $90 million in investment capital, a strong indicator that the lawsuit actually attracted more investors instead of scaring them off.

A Google news search this morning for Hampton Creek reveals about 200 news stories, a mix of coverage for its fundraising success and the lawsuit being dropped. In other words, Unilever gave reporters an additional angle to shine a positive light on Hampton Creek and keep the media coverage going from yesterday into today. (My favorite headline is from CNN Money: “Unilever lays an egg: Drops Just Mayo lawsuit”.)

But what most media outlets ignored was how unprecedented it is for the party filing a lawsuit like this to simply drop it, without getting anything in return, and before any court hearings. It’s clear that Unilever realized its mistake and just wanted the whole thing to go away, and just in time for the holidays. It’s a fitting end to a colossal PR blunder. As the Los Angeles Times put it: “The mayo war was over before it even began.”

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Contact Michele Simon: michele@eatdrinkpolitics.com

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