Milling, baking seek balance in guidelines

by Josh Sosland
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WASHINGTON — Current guidelines encouraging consumers to “make half your grains whole,” should be retained in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, according to major grain industry groups.

In comments submitted July 15 to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, the group also encourages the committee to use the term “enriched” grains rather than “refined” grains for milled products such as white flour that are not whole grain products.

The group warned that use of the term “refined” would cause confusion.

“The term ‘enriched’ is more accurate than the term ‘refined’ or milled grains because approximately 95% of all refined/milled grains are enriched with niacin, thiamine, riboflavin and iron in equal amounts found in whole grains and folic acid is fortified in twice the amount found in whole grain products,” the group said. They noted that the Food and Drug Administration’s Standards of Identity used the term enriched when these nutrients have been added.

“Continuation of the use of ‘refined’ is confusing and inaccurate for both the consumer and the nutrition community,” the group said. “Most importantly, the term ‘refined’ is interpreted negatively by both the consumer and the media when, in fact, both whole grains and enriched grains have a valuable place in a healthy, balanced diet.”

Explaining the industry’s commitment to increasing intake of whole grains, the group noted that “whole grains can reduce the risk of many chronic diseases and may help in weight management.” The comments also acknowledged that most consumers fall short of the recommendations. The industry expressed its commitment to continue to encourage increased consumption of whole grain products.

Still, the group voiced its opposition to the committees “blanket recommendation to limit ‘refined’ carbohydrates.”

“We object to the blanket recommendation to limit ‘refined carbohydrates,’” they said. “While we understand that it is specifically about enriched grains with added sugar and fat, we are concerned that consumers will not understand that a majority of enriched grain products have no added or limited amounts of sugar or fat. The recommendation unjustly conflates enriched flour with added fat and sugar. (This recommendation could be likened to telling consumers to consume fewer almonds merely because they are a popular ingredient in chocolate bars.) Additionally, the recommendation appears to imply that half of enriched flour consumed in the United States goes into products laden with sugar and fat. Industry sources suggest the figure is far smaller than half. We believe more clarification will be needed in the final Guidelines to ensure that Americans understand the difference between the types of enriched carbohydrates that carry unhealthy levels of added sugar and fat, compared with enriched grains that are nutrient-rich and have many health-beneficial qualities.”

Other recommendations by the committee included a cautious, voluntary approach toward reduction of sodium, the use of “sound science” regarding added sugar guidance and continued emphasis on physical activity.

“In summary, there are many valid reasons to continue use of the current guidelines regarding enriched and whole grains: ‘Make half your grains whole,’” the groups said. “But the most compelling reason for not altering the recommendations lies in harmonization of federal nutrition policy and recommendations. It is crucial to not undermine a highly successful public health policy regarding folic acid intake that has demonstrated its success through empirical data — and the very human face of healthier babies. Since 1998, when grain products manufacturers complied with the F.D.A. mandate, our companies have invested extensive resources in education efforts regarding the importance of folic acid for mothers-to-be by partnering with the March of Dimes and the Folic Acid Awareness Council.”

The comments were submitted jointly by the American Bakers Association, AIB International, the Grain Foods Foundation, the Grains for Health Foundation, the Independent Bakers Association, the National Association of Wheat Growers, the National Pasta Association, the North American Millers’ Association, the Retail Bakers of America, the USA Rice Federation and the Wheat Foods Council.

The comments followed by exactly a month release of the Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee
on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010.

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