Food Guide Pyramid Overdue for Major Overhaul
No matter who you are, the federal government's food policies have likely affected your life. The Food Guide Pyramid is a prominent feature on food labels, in grade school cafeterias, and perhaps even on your doctor's office wall. Furthermore, the USDA dictates what the nation's 17 million food stamp recipients can eat, which items are approved for WIC and other supplemental feeding programs, and what foods are offered through the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program.
What you may not know is that many of the experts who create these guidelines have historically been financial partners with the meat, dairy, and egg producers. PCRM filed the lawsuit to insure that future committee members are selected based on professional expertise and free of bias. The lawsuit victory was a major first step toward this goal.
Since 1916, federal food guidelines have gone unchallenged. Despite overwhelming scientific evidence that meat- and dairy-heavy diets contribute to serious health problems including obesity, diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and cancer, the government continues to assert that four to six daily servings of animal products—the very foods that encourage such illnesses—are necessary for good health. It is clear to leading nutrition experts and to growing numbers of people that the easiest way to stay slim and lower the risk for many serious, chronic diseases is by eating a diet rich in plant foods, yet the federal government, which should at the very least have a financial interest in supporting preventive medicine, extends little encouragement for such choices. Moreover, African-, Asian-, and Hispanic-Americans, who are predominantly lactose-intolerant, are encouraged to eat dairy products despite the fact that many of the world's inhabitants never consume milk yet have much lower rates of osteoporosis than we do.
While Americans will always vary in their willingness to modify their diets, the government's dietary guidelines should serve as the superlative model for good nutrition—featuring only those foods that are essential and health-promoting. PCRM's lawsuit victory means that all eyes will be on future advisory committees, ensuring that members are free of inappropriate financial motivations. Only then will all Americans get a fair shot at receiving sound, unbiased nutritional advice.