Sarah F. Davis

The "Dietary Guidelines for Americans" is the foundation for development of Federal nutrition policy and nutrition education programs. It provides evidence-based advice on diet and lifestyle choices for the general public over age 2 in order to promote health and prevent chronic disease. Nutrition and health professionals strongly advocate the use of the Dietary Guidelines when encouraging Americans to eat a healthy diet.

First released in 1980, the Dietary Guidelines are jointly published every five years by the Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS). The USDA and HHS recently appointed a new Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), which they do every five years, to review current scientific and medical evidence and to recommend revisions for the forthcoming 2010 Dietary Guidelines.

As the authoritative voice on food science and technology, the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) submitted nominations to USDA and HHS for food scientists to serve on the 2010 DGAC. IFT is pleased to announce that Professional Members Roger Clemens, Dr.P.H., and Joanne Slavin, Ph.D., were appointed to serve on the 2010 DGAC, which held its first meeting in late October. Clemens—an expert in toxicology, food safety, and functional foods—is Associate Director, Regulatory Science, and Adjunct Professor in Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Science at The University of Southern California. Slavin—an expert in carbohydrates and dietary fiber—is a Professor in Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Minnesota. IFT recognizes the need for a food scientist or technologist on the DGAC, and wants to ensure that our profession will continue to be represented on future Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committees.

A DGAC member in 2005, IFT Professional Member Fergus Clydesdale, Ph.D., noted "It was an honor to be part of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines team and interact with the outstanding members of the committee. It is gratifying that HHS and USDA realize the need for representation from food science and technology. Once again, members of IFT have been invited to serve and it is a huge and necessary step forward to see food science recognized as an integral part of the Dietary Guidelines recommendations."

When revising the current Dietary Guidelines, input from a food scientist or technologist is critical for many reasons. Food scientists understand the issues faced by the food industry and accurately report on the industry’s capabilities and the forces driving industry decisions. They may ensure that nutrition recommendations are realistic given the current food supply and available technologies. They are familiar with the latest food science and nutrition research. Finally, a food scientist may convey information on how certain food processing techniques affect nutritional quality.

For instance, Clydesdale pointed out that "Other committee members often required information and an understanding of how food is produced in quantity for the world. People often do not realize that the food industry feeds the world, and if we are to change how people eat, we must work within the confines of what is possible technically in that industry."

In 2005, the addition of trans fats into the Dietary Guidelines for Americans stimulated widespread media coverage and consumer awareness of trans fats, resulting in food manufacturers altering products to meet the public’s demand for trans fat-free foods. For the 2010 Guidelines, any nutrients seen as a public health concern and seen as a necessary addition to the Dietary Guidelines should be reviewed with the assistance of a food scientist or technologist. These experts are able to inform the DGAC if specific nutrients are able to be added to, or eliminated from, food products. A food scientist or technologist can also provide information concerning the time and cost it may take to reformulate certain food products to meet the Dietary Guidelines, while still providing an acceptable product to consumers. Being able to provide this information to the committee will enable the food industry to more easily help consumers meet the Dietary Guidelines.

As food safety and health become even more important to the public, food scientists may inform the DGAC on what, and how, ingredients can be used to continue to create healthy, safe, and affordable food products. Food science and technology can meet the rapidly changing demands of the global marketplace and ensure a safe and abundant food supply that contributes to healthier people everywhere.

For the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to be optimally effective, food science and technology should always be a key part of formulating the recommendations for the Guidelines.

by Sarah F. Davis, R.D.,
is Staff Scientist, Dept. of Science & Policy Initiatives,
Institute of Food Technologists, 1025 Connecticut Ave. N.W., Suite 503, Washington, DC 20036
([email protected]).