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AMI Stresses Importance of Meat and Poultry in Diet in Comments Submitted to USDA in Response to Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report

Thursday, July 15, 2010

(American Meat Institute)

A well-balanced diet, proper portion sizes and exercise are keys to reducing obesity in Americans and meat and poultry is a nutrient dense food containing high quality protein and an excellent source of micronutrients, said AMI in comments submitted today in response to the report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010.

“Meat and poultry products are an important component of a healthy human diet because they provide essential amino acids, minerals such as iron, vitamins, and other dietary requirements,” AMI states. “Meat and poultry products in the marketplace today, including processed and enhanced meat products, are available to consumers in an abundant variety of formulations at the most affordable prices found anywhere in the world.”

AMI noted that while it is pleased that the report accurately characterized meat and poultry as containing “high quality protein,” unfortunately the report simultaneously advises consumers to moderate their consumption.  The most recent government data show that meat and poultry are consumed in the recommended amounts. 

AMI believes that consumers would be well-served by an education campaign showing proper portion sizes and educating them in concrete and memorable ways about what should be consumed for optimal health and what a proper portion size looks like.  This education program would reinforce and strengthen the overarching message that a balanced diet – from all food groups – needs to be eaten to maintain a healthy life-style.  Recommendations to eat “only moderate” amounts of meat and poultry products may cause unintended consequences by creating deficiencies in essential amino acids, iron, zinc and vitamins A and B12

In regards to the Committee’s recommended sodium reductions, AMI urged the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to consider the possible unforeseen consequences of those recommendations.

Although sodium certainly offers flavor, in meat and poultry it also affects the texture and sensory attributes of the product and has a tremendous food safety benefit because it reduces risks from pathogens.

Unfortunately, some sections of the technical report reveal a strong bias against processed meats.  AMI realizes that this is largely due to concerns about sodium levels in some products.  The comments note that, “Reducing sodium is not as simple as adding less and sending the product to market.  The meat and poultry industry must ensure that there are no unintended food safety consequences to product reformulation.”

AMI noted that sodium reduction is occurring within the meat and poultry industry, but not at the expense of food safety of meat and poultry products.   

AMI recommended that the Institute of Medicine report “A Population-Based Policy and Systems Change Approach to Prevent and Control Hypertension” be considered by USDA and HHS when developing the sodium intake and sodium reduction guidelines.  As a better focus to improve hypertension rates in Americans, AMI would support the inclusion of a physician education program highlighting the benefits of treatment of hypertension through proper screening and medical treatment for hypertension to include, but not limited to medication, proper weight control, diet and exercise, and other strategies targeted to at-risk populations.

Also in its comments, AMI cautioned USDA and HHS against relying upon information about meat and poultry from the WCRF report.  Since its publication, numerous errors and omissions have been identified in the report’s meat chapter by expert scientists.  Further, review papers and critiques of the report’s methodology by eminent scientists from organizations such as the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer suggest that this report’s conclusions are controversial, and inconsistent with WCRF’s own underlying systematic literature review.

While it is in Americans’ best health interest to consume meat and poultry products as nutrient dense foods that complement a varied and balanced diet, which includes fruits, vegetables, nuts, dairy products, legumes and grains to “increase intakes of shortfall nutrients and nutrients of concern,” AMI said it is concerned that the Committee is overemphasizing its recommendations to make grains, fruits and vegetables the core of a plant-based diet as the foundation of a “healthy” diet for Americans. 

“AMI is hopeful that USDA and HHS will consider only the recommendations put forward by the Committee that are based in sound science, not social policy opinions as outlined by the Total Diet and Translating and Integrating the Evidence chapters which fall outside the scope of the Committee,” the comments state.

AMI made the following recommendations to the Committee:

AMI has been actively engaged in the development of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, participating in all six Committee meetings and twice before submitting detailed comments concerning sodium’s role in meat and poultry products and the health benefits of consuming animal-based proteins as part of a balanced diet.  On July 8, 2010, AMI Director of Scientific Affairs Betsy Booren, Ph.D., delivered oral testimony to USDA and HHS.  

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