Environmental sustainability could have a place in federal nutrition guidelines

Environmental sustainability could have a place in federal nutrition guidelines

In a significant change from years' past, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has started to consider how its nutrition recommendations should align with environmental sustainability.

The connection between food production and environmental sustainability isn’t a new concept in many fields, including the natural products industry. But the effort to address the environmental impact of Americans' dining habits has been slow to seep into America's nutrition policy, until now.

For the first time, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, the group tasked with creating the blueprint for federal nutrition policy, is exploring how its dietary recommendations should promote foods that are sustainably grown and have the least environmental impact. The group has formed its first workgroup focused on sustainability and hired consultants including Kate Clancy, a senior fellow at the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture, to provide guidance as it crafts nutrition guidelines for the next five years.

In January, Clancy made a presentation to the committee that addressed the far-reaching environmental impacts of our current food system, including erosion because of poor soil management, loss of biodiversity and methane emissions produced by large-scale cattle operations. Her recommendations for future, more sustainable eating guidelines included lower-meat diets and a preference for locally grown produce and sustainably caught fish. 

Here’s the full powerpoint.

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You can also watch a video of her complete sustainability presentation to the dietary guidelines committee.

Some are seeing this shift in thinking as a dangerous “nanny-state intrusion” on Americans' personal freedom to eat what they want without considering the consequences. But for for the companies and organizations who prioritize local produce, sustainably raised meat and organic ingredients, this policy direction is right on the mark.

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