It’s kinda creepy. Mark Bittman in the NYT Op/Ed page:
The recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, a nutrition panel that helps update and revise federal dietary guidelines, were announced last week and are easy to parse: The panel, a collection of 14 health experts with dozens of specialists in support, emphasizes things that just about everyone agrees upon: that we need a diet more oriented toward plants, that we should reduce calorie consumption in general, and that less sugar would be a good thing. Not much new there, or surprising.
But on some levels the report is disappointing: For one thing, it’s 571 pages (not surprisingly, it stumbles over itself). And it focuses on individual nutrients at the expense of sending simpler messages. No one wants to think about “eating” (or, even worse, “consuming”) cholesterol or saturated fat or sodium or “sweeteners.” We want to think about eating food.
This is a long-term problem. For years government agencies have all but ignored the value of real food, of cooking, of well-produced, actually natural — the word must mean something, after all — food as opposed to its components or its hyperprocessed substitutes, and of eating with friends and family in a relaxed manner. (There’s a reason life expectancy in most OECD countries is higher than ours.) Agencies repeatedly ignored evidence that would have led to better advice because Big Food’s muscle prevented statements that would have cut consumption — such as “eat less meat,” or “don’t drink soda.”
Industry representatives hate the report — a good indicator of its value — and will fight to keep its recommendations from becoming policy. (Saying “eat less meat” is way different from saying “eat more lean meat.”) We should carefully monitor the current public comment period, which will be followed by a review by the Health and Agriculture Departments later this year, before the official Dietary Guidelines for Americans will be published. The smart environmental qualifications, and much else, will be fought furiously. But whatever is adopted will become official policy and will strongly affect school lunches and other federally funded meal-serving programs. Overall, these recommendations deserve our support (you can register your comments here) and our awareness that they need to go further.
The recommendations are perhaps more complicated than we’d like, but they must stand up to Big Food, which will fight, deny, complicate and more, just as it’s fighting the Food and Drug Administration’s better-labeling laws, and just as it’s trying to roll back advances in school lunches. Industry’s job is to confuse every issue, to make sure that what we eat is profitable regardless of its value. In short, Big Food wants the corn-and-soybean status quo.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I think it would help if we had an overarching statement defining “food” and our rights regarding it, something like “All Americans have the right to nutritious, affordable, sustainable and fair food.” That would signal intent, and a recognition that although the science may never be entirely clear, people’s rights should trump industry’s “needs.”
Policy can make things much simpler. Michael Pollan’s justifiably famous seven words — “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants” — get at the root, and a more detailed explanation could be executed in just a couple of paragraphs. Many other countries are learning from our mistakes, and beginning to develop national food policies that have some teeth.
Food policy pits the profits of the very few against the needs and rights of many. We can whittle away at those profits, but it would be faster, healthier and even more delicious if we brought about a transition with more urgency.
It tells you to drink all the coffee you want, up to something like five cups a day, which makes some people ecstatic. But far more important is this statement: “Strategies are needed to encourage the U.S. population to drink water when they are thirsty.” Imagine if that were official policy.
Leftism always starts with do-gooderism. It always ends with tyranny. Here is the basic formula:
1. Identify a problem
2. Get government involved in making guidelines/recommendations
3. Guidelines/recommendations become policy
4. Policy becomes law
5. Everything not mandatory is prohibited
Imagine if “All Americans have the right to nutritious, affordable, sustainable and fair food” became codified into law. Now think about how expansive the power to “regulate interstate commerce” has become, and imagine a federal bureaucracy controlling every aspect of what we eat.
In other words, imagine expanding Michelle Obama’s school lunch program to cover every meal, every snack, every person, every day.
Of course the rules won’t apply to people like Michelle, Barack and their friends. They’ll keep eating Wagyu beef and caviar. Rules are for little people like you and me.
As for me, I prefer freedom.