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August 11, 2020
Food

STATEMENT: Keltie Vance’s oral testimony to USDA and HHS: Scientific Report of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee

Keltie Vance, senior campaigns coordinator, delivered the comments below at a USDA/HHS hearing regarding the scientific report of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory on August 11, 2020.

“Keltie Vance, Corporate Accountability. Corporate Accountability is a member-powered, non-profit organization that has, for more than four decades, advocated for critical reform to global public health policy and organized to hold corporations accountable for their abuses.

Corporate Accountability will highlight three findings that show how the DGA development process has been, and continues to be, compromised by industry influence.[1] These findings will demonstrate the scope of this interference and why the DGAs, as well as their development processes, must be free from the influence of the food and beverage industry.

First, our research, with findings from other organizations, shows that a majority of the DGAC have ties to the food and beverage industry,[2],[3] with more than half of the Committee having ties to the International Life Sciences Institute,[4]also known as ILSI. We note that the DGA process didn’t effectively implement key recommendations published by the National Academies’ to enhance transparency.[5] For example, based on publicly available information, the USDA and HHS didn’t employ a third party to undertake a review of the nominations for qualified candidates. Notwithstanding industry ties in the DGAC, some officials tasked to oversee the DGA process also seem to have connections to industry groups.[6]

Second, as of May 12, we found that almost 70% of public comments that seemed to be submitted by organizations to the DGAC were from entities with ties to Big Food and Beverage.[7] And contained in these industry comments were an array of questionable citations supporting recommendations aimed at influencing the DGA process at the expense of public health.[8]  The USDA and HHS are opening the floodgates for the industry to further influence our diets and put its profits over anything else.[9]

Third, in all fourteen chapters of the DGAC report, we found that each chapter had at least three references with some ties to Big Food and Beverage, including to Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and McDonald’s. Some recommendations in the report seem quite in line with comments submitted by industry groups, including the Big Soda backed Calorie Control Council.[10],[11],[12]

With historic industry interference in past and current DGAs, the USDA and HHS is yet again at the final stage of the process to ensure that the DGA is free from any industry influence—once and for all. Some initial steps we urge you to take are:

  1. Prohibit ILSI and other industry groups from nominating participants in policy processes, such as the DGAs.
  2. Prohibit those with any ties to the industry from participating in future DGA development processes, and ensure their recusal from the current process.
  3. Discontinue all partnerships and “involvement” with industry groups, including disallowing officials from affiliating with them.

Thus, Corporate Accountability is calling on the USDA and HHS to ensure that the DGAs are driven by industry-free scientific evidence and by officials who don’t have industry ties— and finally— that the DGAs serve all Americans, especially Black, Indigenous, and people of color, above all.

Thank you.”

[1] Corporate Accountability, “Partnership for an Unhealthy Planet: How big business interferes with global health policy and science,” Corporate Accountability, April 21, 2020, 10-13, https://www.corporateaccountability.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Partnership-for-an-unhealthy-planet.pdf.

[2] “Partnership for an Unhealthy Planet: How big business interferes with global health policy and science,” 10.

[3] Derrick Z. Jackson, “The Junk Food President Aims to Ruin American Nutrition,” The American Prospect, August 23, 2019, https://prospect.org/power/junk-food-president-aims-ruin-american-nutrition/.

[4] “Corporate Accountability, “Partnership for an Unhealthy Planet: How big business interferes with global health policy and science,” Corporate Accountability, April 21, 2020, 10, https://www.corporateaccountability.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Partnership-for-an-unhealthy-planet.pdf.

[5] National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Optimizing the Process for Establishing the Dietary Guidelines for Americans: The Selection Process, (Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2017), 4-7.

[6] Corporate Accountability, “Dietary Guidelines for Corporate America,” Corporate Accountability, June 16, 2020, 4, https://www.corporateaccountability.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/2020.06.16-DGAC-Media-Brief_Corporate-Accountability_Final.pdf.

[7] “Dietary Guidelines for Corporate America,” 5-9.

[8] Ibid., 5.

[9] Ibid., 5-9.

[10]  Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, “Scientific Report of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee: Part D: Chapter 10: Beverages,” Dietary Guidelines, July 2020, 22-23, https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2020-07/PartD_Ch10_Beverages_first-print.pdf.

[11] Corporate Accountability, “Dietary Guidelines for Corporate America,” Corporate Accountability, June 16, 2020, 7, https://www.corporateaccountability.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/2020.06.16-DGAC-Media-Brief_Corporate-Accountability_Final.pdf.

[12] Robert Rankin and Karima A. Kendall, “CCC DGAC Comments,” Calorie Control Council, January 9, 2020, 3-4, https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=FNS-2019-0001-17710.