As we write this, representatives of the nation’s largest food companies are lobbying the United States Department of Agriculture to weaken food policy recommendations made by its panel of the nation’s top medical and nutrition professionals. Earlier this week a coalition of plant-based food companies led by public health lawyer Michele Simon submitted a letter to the USDA asking them to maintain the call for Americans to eat more plants and less meat in the final guidelines (Read that letter here). You can submit your comments in support of the dietary guidelines by 11:59pm on Friday, May 8th by going to the USDA’s website here. Below are the comments submitted by our CEO.
Dear Secretary Vilsack et al at the USDA:
I applaud the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee for its scientifically-grounded recommendations that Americans should reduce their intake of meat products and increase consumption of fruits and vegetables. The evidence shows that the consumption of animal proteins leads to an increased risk of ischemic heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain forms of cancer when compared with a plant-based diet. Coming from a family plagued by heart disease, and as a former teenager who personally faced the dangers of high LDL cholesterol, a high BMI and dairy-induced (nearly chronic) bronchitis, I have seen firsthand the benefits of eliminating meat, dairy and eggs from my diet over the last 15 years.
I also applaud the committee for recognizing the significant impact of our dietary choices on the sustainability of our planet and the benefits of eating a more plant-based diet to improve water/land/feed efficiencies, reduce pollution and reduce the astronomical level of greenhouse gases emitted by animal agriculture.
In making official food policies based on the recommendations, I call on the USDA to do the following:
1) Specifically mention the variety of healthful plant-based foods that can be offered as alternatives to animal products. Many of these offer sufficient levels of protein (which most Americans currently consume in excess), high levels of other essential nutrients not found in animal products, no cholesterol, and significantly less saturated fat.
2) Specifically identify and recommend healthy alternatives to the milk and dairy components of My Plate. Animal-based milks are high in fat and cholesterol, have been shown to cause the body to leech calcium (despite industry marketing that implies otherwise), and are not digestible by the majority of the world’s population (particularly in non-Caucasian communities). Dairy alternative beverages offer equivalent or improved nutritional benefits without the cholesterol and provide a solution for the majority of Americans who cannot properly digest animal milks.
3. Stand up for the health of Americans, rather the interests of industry, and retain the scientific advisory committee’s recommendations for Americans to decrease consumption of meat. Please do not weaken these recommendations by encouraging Americans to eat “lean” meats when in reality no meat sold in this country meets your legal standard for “lean meat,” and even if these products did exist, they would not address many of the carcinogenic and heart-disease-related risks associated with meat products.
I thank you in advance for doing what’s right and advancing the sound science that has been presented to you by the nation’s leading medical and nutrition experts.