Josh Sosland: Communication will be key to Guidelines success

by Josh Sosland
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Central to themes emerging in a review of comments submitted regarding the report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee was not so much what the committee said but how the suggestions were communicated. Yes, salt and sugar groups cried foul over recommendations aimed at cutting intake of sodium and added sugars, but such complaints were the exception.

For example, the egg industry worried that guidance to “shift food intake patterns to a more plant-based diet” would be perceived as an endorsement of vegetarian or vegan diet. The meat industry objected that advice that Americans consume “only moderate” amounts of meat and poultry may be perceived as advice to reduce consumption of animal protein, when cutbacks are not indicated based on current intake levels.

As has been noted here, grain-based foods objected to the term “refined grains” for flour that is a major source of micronutrients in the diet.

The fruits and vegetables industry, fearful that efforts to increase intake are an exercise in futility, said, “Vague messages (such as) ‘foods to encourage’ and ‘make wiser food choices’ have been previously used, have not worked and will not work this time.”

What’s at work here may have been expressed best by the International Food Information Council Foundation.

“The process (of identifying effective dietary guidance messages) should be based on a foundation of knowledge about what makes nutrition messages appealing to consumers,” the Foundation said. “We must not presume that nutrition messages simply translated into ‘lay language’ will be useful to various audiences.” IFIC concluded that if efforts to make the messaging take hold are not rooted in the same scientific rigor that inform the development of the guidelines themselves, the federal government’s efforts will continue to be for naught. The government long has been criticized for not putting resources behind helping the public better grasp the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Based on the comments submitted this year, it appears the lesson has not yet been learned in Washington.

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