Dear Secretaries Vilsack and Sebelius:
The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), a nonprofit scientific society with over 18,000 individual members, commends the members of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) on their Report which:
- Is a thought-provoking call-to-action to address obesity;
- Highlights an energy-balanced and nutrient dense total diet;
- Suggests a flexible approach to total diet which can serve as a guide for Americans to successfully achieve healthier weights since it incorporates consumers’ taste and food preferences with their needs for healthier eating;
- And utilized USDA’s Nutrition Evidence Library to ensure that diet and nutrition-related recommendations are evidence-based.
As outlined in the sections that follow, food science and technology must play an integral role in making more healthy food choices available to consumers if the 2010 Dietary Guidelines are to be implemented. The DGAC Report highlights many opportunities for food scientists and technologists to provide support to an evolving food environment. Reduced intake of sodium, solid fats, and added sugars in the food system often require technological adaptation that only food scientists and technologists can contribute. Food scientists and technologists can help consumers more effectively meet the Dietary Guidelines through food processing such as product reformulation, fortification, enrichment, and other means for effective nutrient delivery. To ensure that the Dietary Guidelines are practical and achievable, food scientists and technologists can provide insight on the food industry’s capabilities to add, reduce or remove nutrients in foods, and highlight resulting impacts on food manufacturing and food safety, including technological limitations and cost constraints. An integrated approach to health is necessary, as expertise from nutritionists, food scientists, food technologists and others will lead to effective dietary guidance and more nutrient dense food choices. IFT and IFT members are ready and able to provide expertise on food science and technology that is critical to the implementation of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and DGAC Report recommendations.
Role of Food Science and Technology
The use of food science and technology dramatically shapes the character of the food supply. Continuing advances in food science and technology enable development and delivery of more appealing foods with important health benefits. It is critically important that scientific and technological advancements are applied to provide Americans with a nutritious, affordable food supply. IFT recognizes that there are food manufacturing limitations and challenges that must be considered for practical, achievable dietary recommendations. Any approach should be realistic and achievable based on the food industry’s available technologies and current capabilities, and it must ensure that food safety is not compromised. An integrated approach to health with input from many disciplines will lead to improved dietary guidance and more nutrient dense food choices. Working together, food scientists and technologists can help achieve the food and nutrition targets set in the Dietary Guidelines and can help the government more effectively enable consumers to meet the Guidelines.
Food product reformulation is a valuable tool to provide Americans with greater food options which are increasingly nutrient dense, but multiple factors including food safety, preservation, stability, functionality, cost, and taste must all be considered. For example, food manufacturers must balance the multiple functions of sodium in food beyond taste, including effects on other flavors, texture, microbial control, and color, to create safe and wholesome, appealing food products. It is also important to note that some foods have a standard of identity that defines ingredients required in a product, which may contain sodium. For example, pasteurized process cheese requires one or more emulsifying agents from a list that frequently contain sodium such as monosodium phosphate, disodium phosphate, trisodium phosphate, sodium metaphosphate, sodium hexametaphosphate, sodium acid pyrophosphate, tetrasodium pyrophosphate, sodium aluminum, sodium citrate, sodium tartrate, and sodium potassium tartrate, and dictates that the weight of the emulsifying agents cannot be more than 3 percent of the weight of the pasteurized process cheese. Members of the food industry have worked diligently to reduce the sodium content in various products for decades now and many food companies have made tremendous progress in providing sodium reduced products that enjoy consumer acceptance, but progress is difficult owing to the myriad functions of sodium/salt in formulated foods. Additional research and development efforts are needed.
Sugars, fats and oils also contribute significant functionality to processed food products. Fats may be a carrier for nutrients, and beyond taste, lend stability, moisture, texture, and more to food products. Similarly, sugars provide volume, moisture, texture, color, and more to food products. The food industry has made significant strides in reducing saturated fatty acids in processed foods, and reducing or eliminating manufactured trans fatty acids. Although vegetable oils developed to decrease the saturated fatty acid content and reduce the amount of chemical hydrogenation, including those oils containing enhanced levels of oleic acid, are better able to meet dietary guidance, challenges exist for increased reduction in trans fats that still must be considered. The commitment to such reductions includes increasingly resourcing food science and technology development for processed foods, including R&D technical support, to successfully reformulate food products that contribute to the public health goals reflected in the forthcoming 2010 Dietary Guidelines.
Food science and technology are tools that can be effectively used in production of nutrient dense foods to assist the American public and others in meeting dietary guidance through enrichment, fortification and other processing technologies. Food scientists and technologists can provide information on the functionality-based use of various ingredients for creating healthy, safe, and affordable food products. Fortification is an important way to help Americans increase their consumption of shortfall nutrients such as has been successful historically with calcium and iron, and more recently with folic acid. Folic acid, a shortfall nutrient for many pregnant women, is used to fortify cereal products for prevention of neural tube defects (NTDs) in newborns, successfully reducing the incidence of NTDs by over 25% in the U.S. and nearly 50% in Canada since fortification began. Fortification of processed foods is a positive means to enhance the dietary contribution of processed food products widely available to Americans generally and subpopulations specifically, including the economically disadvantaged.
Role of IFT
IFT appreciates the opportunity to provide comments pertinent to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) Report on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Founded in 1939, IFT is a nonprofit scientific society with members working in food science, food technology, nutrition and related professions. Members and staff of IFT work diligently to help realize IFT’s vision, as a nonprofit, of ensuring a safe and abundant food supply, thus contributing to healthier people everywhere. We recognize the critical value of raising public discourse on the food and health issues associated with diet, nutrition, health and obesity. An IFT scientific review, “Feeding the World Today and Tomorrow: The Importance of Food Science and Technology,” highlights several relevant strategies to address the diet and health goals set forth in the 2010 DGAC Report. The review, which will be published in the September 2010 issue of the peer-reviewed journal “Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety,” establishes parameters for public/private efforts to improve diet and health, as well as the critical role of food science. These parameters include:
- More healthful consumer dietary choices;
- Clear, accurate information about foods and the consequences of eating habits, and education about how to make healthful, economical food choices;
- Wider availability of more nutrient-rich foods and beverages;
- Responsible marketing of food products;
- Healthful offerings and appropriate portions with nutrition information in foodservice settings;
- Responsible goals for applications of technologies to develop better products and more effective public health messages; and,
- More research investments into the effects of food processing on nutrients and their bioavailability, the relationship of diet composition and energy balance, and behavior modification for healthful diets.
IFT offers our scientific support to assist with the implementation of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and urges that food scientists and technologists be engaged in the implementation of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines. IFT also stands ready to recommend food scientists and technologists for this role. With individual members in academia, industry and government, IFT welcomes the opportunity to participate in a strategic public/private dialogue on the development of a concerted effort to provide necessary solutions to implement the Dietary Guidelines and DGAC Report recommendations. There is a need for ongoing consumer education and social marketing programs designed to encourage individuals to change existing eating and food choice behavior. Public/ private collaboration to investigate the means by which we might positively impact eating behaviors, including research activities aimed at assessing food choice behavior and impacts on health outcomes, including obesity and overweight. Collaboration allows resources from government, academia, nonprofit and other research organizations to be used most efficiently and more broadly impacts outcomes. Working together, public/ private initiatives will allow more consumers to meet the Dietary Guidelines through concerted programs with clearly identified food and diet inputs, and public health and nutrition outcome metrics. Above all, future work to implement the Guidelines must be based on a scientific foundation and recognition that additional research is needed to measure the impact of any public health initiatives.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the full Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. We look forward to working together to develop projects and programs which will most successfully permit broadscale implementation of the recommendations of this Report. Our members are committed to assisting with the process, and we believe our technological and scientific capabilities can be part of the solution to addressing recommendations for improved food choices and healthy eating for all Americans.
Please contact William Fisher, Vice President of Science and Policy Initiatives, if IFT may provide further assistance. He can be reached at 1025 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 503, Washington, DC 20036; telephone number: 202-330-4977; or email address: email@example.com.