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Food Industry Reacts Favorably to New Dietary Guidelines

The long-awaited release of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture earned steadfast applause from the nation's top trade groups, particularly for its inclusion of all forms of fruits and vegetables as part of the recommendation for a healthy diet. 

Noting that "decades of research indicates that a diet high in vegetables and fruit is consistently associated with positive health outcomes and a decreased risk of chronic disease," United Fresh Produce Association President/CEO Tom Stenzel further stated that the government's urging of Americans to increase the consumption of fresh foods "tops the list of ways to improve eating habits and health."

The American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) also applauded the administration "for recognizing the benefits of all forms of fruits and vegetables – frozen, fresh, canned, dried and 100 percent juice – in achieving and maintaining healthy dietary patterns." Joseph Clayton, interim president of McLean, Va.-based AFFI commended the new dietary guidelines' "broad reach" and imperative that they "reflect sound science."

Adding that "frozen fruits and vegetables are as rich in nutrients, and often more so, than fresh stored produce," per studies commissioned by Frozen Food Foundation and conducted by the Universities of Georgia and California Davis, Clayton further noted that "government guidelines reinforcing the healthfulness of all forms of fruits and vegetables positively impact consumers’ perceptions of packaged fruits and vegetables."

For his part, Stenzel hopes the recently released guidelines will be a conduit for all federal nutrition programs to follow suit.

"To improve public health, United Fresh urges policy makers to align all federal nutrition programs with the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines to significantly increase access to fruits and vegetables and to consider a broad range of policy changes and educational strategies to make fruits and vegetables the easy choice for all Americans," Stenzel said.

Also welcoming the new DGAs from the CPG side is The Dannon Co., which cheered the inclusion of one serving of yogurt in recommended healthy eating patterns in light of findings that the vast majority of Americans are not getting the recommended three servings of dairy per day.

Added Kathy Means, VP of industry relations for the Produce Marketing Association: "We’re pleased the guidelines clearly convey that nutrients best come from foods rather than supplements and that healthy eating with fruits and vegetables can serve as a keystone habit to help with other recommendations such as limiting added sugars, reducing sodium and choosing a variety of nutrient-dense foods.

"Furthermore, the guidelines stress fruits and vegetables must be part of all healthy eating patterns, thereby meeting consumers where they are in terms of cultural and personal food preferences — something the world-variety of produce naturally serves," she said.

The National Fisheries Institute (NFI) also weighed in, lauding the new Guidelines' recommendation that Americans eat at least 8 ounces of seafood per week. "The authors are very specific about the role seafood can and should play in that effort, noting that 'shifts are needed within the protein foods group to increase seafood intake,'" NFI said. "Throughout the report seafood is highlighted as an 'important source' of nutrients, lauded for its 'health benefits' and praised for its role in 'reducing risk of' heart disease."

Not All Are Cheering

The Environmental Working Group, meantime, is among those decrying the new DGAs, which it says "miss[es] a key opportunity to steer Americans toward a diet that is healthier and better for the environment by not clearly recommending that people reduce their meat consumption," according to EWG Research Analyst Emily Cassidy.

"The new 2015 Dietary Guidelines should have clearly called on consumers to eat less meat – both to protect their health and to reduce the harm that meat production does to the environment. Producing meat is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, and growing the feed for livestock is a leading cause of farm runoff that pollutes our drinking water," said Cassidy, adding that the new DGAs "also fail to detail the risk of mercury exposure from canned tuna, a major health risk especially for children and pregnant women."

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are published every five years to reflect the most current nutrition science and have an important role in guiding federal nutrition policy.

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