You will hear lots of commentary that factually, the Dietary Goals Advisory Committee left out, subverted or simply ignored facts and scientific results that buttress the importance of red meat and dairy products in the human diet. It's true. And we'll touch on what and why.
But we must keep in mind the big picture here, the pattern of relationship between citizens and big government. Politics have been allowed to pervert science and shape our lives based on flawed, unproven hypotheses labeled science fact when it is but scientific testing, scientific process. A major guest editorial in a recent Wall Street Journal was a recounting by an MIT professor of all the factual omissions, the model failings and the faulty predictions regarding "global warming." Yet while the "case for climate alarm is disintegrating," billions of dollars have been sunk into studies and "trillions of dollars have been involved in overthrowing the energy economy," Richard S. Lindzen said. Lindzen recounted the recent efforts of the New York Times and a Congressman attacking the credibility of seven scientists who have challenged the global warming theory. And they didn't attack facts but expense reports and study funding and sent intimidation letters to university employers ("The Political Assault on Climate Skeptics," 03/05/2015). While this is just one political example, government's takeover of the global warming movement while still a theory and forcing it upon businesses and taxpayers is similar to our problems.
Much of Nina Teicholz's book ("The Big Fat Surprise," now available in paperback) recounts the federal government adoption of a diet-heart disease hypothesis, anointing it as fact long before it was proven, and making it government policy. Both examples show contrary evidence buried and scientists being shouted down. This is an opportunity for us to further the effort of turning the tide for animal products, the foods that provide such nutrient density to our diet, primarily from human inedible resources we can't harvest any other way.
While some of us have been around long enough to see the beginning of the diet-cholesterol-saturated fat-heart disease hypothesis, I really believe we are nearing the final reckoning; that is, the recognition of the invalidity of most of that theory and a total revision of dietary recommendations to address both heart disease and obesity. But those interests deeply entrenched in the old hypothesis will fight to the end. I believe this may be a very public example.
One thing we learned from a member of the Advisory Committee at Cattle Industry convention was that while the committee members decide what questions they will address, it is the agency staffs who actually determine what pieces of research shall be used by the committee to address those questions. Therefore, staffers with agendas can shape the outcome of the committee's work by controlling the reference library. It is reminiscent of the McGovern anti-meat staffer with a dislike for South Dakota cowboys who wrote – not just controlled the reference library – the first Senate Select report and started the wheels turning for Dietary Goals and the future of the meat industry for 50 years (another great story in Teicholz's book).
Here's an example illustrating the strength of the biased mindset at work here. I watched a portion of the December meeting of the Committee. The speaker put up a slide of diets consumed by people achieving favorable health outcomes, with various food groups in bar graphs broken out across the slide. Remember, this slide represented people getting good health results with their diet. What was the speaker's comment? She noted that while the outcomes were good, these people were eating too much red meat. I waited for someone to venture a comment as to why she thought they were eating too much red meat if they were achieving good results. I didn't hear any, most likely because these people can not see results on a slide that contradict their preconceived notions. This is not true science, or at least, good science, but poor interpretation of data.
In the same vein, Shalene McNeill, registered dietitian and NCBA's nutrition scientist, noted that the report's review of the science showed healthy diets have red and processed meats 2-3 times what Americans eat, yet the Committee encourages diets lower in red and processed meat. McNeill said the report acknowledges this (page 70), stating that "red and processed meats are higher in the Mediterranean-style diets" but don't offer any justification for recommending diets lower in red meat.
We noted above that the Advisory Report is based, on the surface, only on certain select studies and documents. But this report is Advisory. NCBA makes a critical point. The Dietary Guidelines themselves, to be issued by the secretaries of both USDA and HHS, should be based "on the totality of the science..." "Key science was not considered" in the Advisory Committee report NCBA said (including a landmark checkoff funding study we would add) and the Guidelines should correct this.
NCBA also noted that the Advisory Committee's discussions over many months did not suggest excluding "lean meats" from a health dietary pattern, yet that is what the final report did.
I heard from several sources that red meat was in the diet recommendation before a particular luncheon and was removed by the time the luncheon was over. That, my friends, is the kind of non-scientific, opaque result one obtains when politics overrides scientific fact. (What did they have for lunch?)
Finally, one last point, elevating the Committee's recommendations leaving out red meat from an oversight or a disagreement over definitions to vendetta territory, consider this: the report identifies the "burgers, sandwiches and tacos" category as the top source of American calories. No surprise there. Yet a checkoff document notes that beef from that category accounts for only 2.4 percent of the American diet and beef in total is only 5 percent of the total American diet. How can we be the source of the country's obesity problems?
The comment deadline is April 8, 2015 EDT. This is not the normal government regulation comment site. Notes in the introduction call for a 250-word summary of your comments but the instructions for the form limit your comments to 5,000 characters. Guess that means you can use up to 5,000 characters total but they prefer a 250-word summary at the beginning. Frankly, limiting comments on a 571-page report to 5,000 characters is kind of cheeky. Be alert: groups are requesting an extension, so you may have more time or more opportunities to address additional issues. We didn't see prohibitions on multiple comments. Warning: they claim to impose a 20-minute limit on your use of the page, so you might want to write your piece and then cut and paste it into the government form.
One last note: there will be a public hearing on this report March 24 in Washington.
To comment on the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report, click here: http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2015/comments/writeComments.aspx
Click here to download or view the Report or chapters of the report: http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015-scientific-report/
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Steve Dittmer, a veteran in agricultural policy and commentator.