New Dietary Guidelines

The USDA and DHHS are in the process of revising the federal dietary guidelines.  It is unclear how similar or dissimilar the new recommendations will be relative to the current MyPlate recommendations. 

The committee drawing up the new recommendations has come under fire for what appears to be an attempt to work in environmental considerations when making the new dietary recommendations.

A recent appointment to the USDA has added further fuel to the fire.  Here's Jeff Stier writing in the Des Moines register:

The appointment of Iowa’s Angela Tagtow, a controversial “environmental nutritionist” and local food activist, to head the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion is causing more headaches for the agency, already facing criticism about politicization of federal nutrition advice and its consequences for public health.

It isn't necessarily a bad idea for the government to convey the scientific evidence on the environmental impacts of producing different foods.  The trouble comes when a single set of omnibus recommendations attempt to integrate disparate issues like environment, nutrition, and other factors.  

The trade-off between health outcomes, environmental outcomes, taste, and the price we pay (among other factors) is subjective and individual-specific.  Science might be able to tell us that eating food X is associated with environmental outcome Y and health outcome Z.  But, there is nothing in science that can tell us whether Y or Z is more important.  Nor should we expect every person to be willing to pay the same amount for Y or Z or to make the same trade-offs between taste and price to get these outcomes.  

Tell us which foods are more nutritious.  Tell us which foods are more environmentally friendly.  But, don't presume to know how much one values taste vs. nutrition, or environment vs. nutrition, or price vs. environment.  And, recognize that we can't have it all.  Life is full of trade-offs.