When the federal government's new Dietary Guidelines come out later this year, the nation's top nutritional panel wants them for the first time to include a recommendation that Americans keep the planet in mind when deciding what to eat. That's the panel's advice, at least, and its inclusion in its 571-page report, issued yesterday, is quite controversial. In December, Congress warned the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee not to touch on anything other than nutrition, but the report urges Americans to eat more plant-based foods and fewer animal-based foods in an effort to have a smaller environmental impact, the Washington Post reports. The report calls out red meat in particular as harmful to the environment, and it also notes that Americans should cut back on it for health reasons. Members of Congress and the meat industry lobby were quick to criticize the report.
"Politically motivated issues such as ... environmental sustainability are outside their purview," says a spokesman for GOP Rep. Robert B. Aderholt; the head of the largest meat-trade association said the recommendations "appear to be based on ... social agendas." But the American Institute for Cancer Research applauded the report's meat advice, NBC News reports. And, National Geographic adds, the report does include the footnote that "lean red meat" can be included in a healthy diet. The Department of Health and Human Services and the Agriculture Department could simply ignore the report, which is meant to provide a scientific basis for the guidelines, when they issue the official guidelines, but the Post reports the recommendations are rarely altered. Americans can, of course, ignore the guidelines once they come out, but as they can impact things like school lunch menus, they could have an effect. (Another first: a reversal of long-standing warnings about cholesterol.)