Nutrition Facts Panels

Dietary Guidelines Committee Chosen; Conflicts of Interest Are Suspected

Jan. 19, 2023
The Nutrition Coalition calls on USDA and HHS to disclose potential conflicts of interest among the committee members.

It’s barely 2023 but work is beginning on the 2025 Dietary Guidelines, and with it come the annual concerns over who is influencing the healthy eating recommendations.

The Nutrition Coalition today (Jan. 19) called on USDA and the Health & Human Services Dept.-HHS to disclose potential conflicts of interest among the newly announced Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC).

The committee also was announced today. On it are:

Steven Abrams, MD, University of Texas at Austin; Cheryl Anderson, PhD, MPH, MS, University of California San Diego; Aline Andres, PhD, RD, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences; Sarah Booth, PhD, Tufts University; Carol Byrd-Bredbenner, PhD, RD, FAND, Rutgers-The State University of New Jersey; Heather Eicher-Miller, PhD, Purdue University; Teresa Fung, ScD, RD, Simmons University; Edward Giovannucci, MD, ScD, Harvard University; Valarie Blue Bird Jernigan, DrPH, MPH, Oklahoma State University; Cristina Palacios, PhD, MSc, Florida International University; Fatima Cody Stanford, MD et al., Harvard University; Christopher Taylor, PhD, RDN, LD, FAND, Ohio State University; Andrea Deierlein, PhD, MPH, MS, New York University; Jennifer Orlet Fisher, PhD, Temple University; Christopher Gardner, PhD, Stanford University; Deanna Hoelscher, PhD, RDN, et al., University of Texas at Austin; Angela Odoms-Young, PhD, MS, Cornell University; Hollie Raynor, PhD, RD, LDN, University of Tennessee Knoxville; Sameera Talegawkar, PhD, George Washington University; Deirdre Tobias, ScD, Harvard University.

All academics. The coalition did not specify who among those may have a conflict, nor with what food or beverage companies.

“USDA-HHS continues to reject a 2017 recommendation, by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), to ‘disclose how provisional nominees' biases and conflicts of interest are identified and managed’ by ‘creating and publicly posting a policy and form to explicitly disclose financial and nonfinancial biases and conflicts,’ ” the Nutrition Coalition wrote. They were last updated in 2020.

USDA and HHS, parent of the FDA, are charged with updating the guidelines every five years, providing science-based recommendations to foster healthy dietary patterns for Americans of all ages, and they also affect federally funded nutrition programs.

“[T]he DGAC appointment process remains wholly opaque, without disclosure of the potential nominees nor any explanation as to why or how certain nominees are selected while others rejected,” read a 2022 article in a NASEM journal. The authors included three former DGAC members.

The Nutrition Coalition claims a study published in a journal of Cambridge University found that conflicts of interest on the 2020 Dietary Guideline Advisory Committee were pervasive:

* 95% of committee members had at least one conflict with the food or pharmaceutical industries.

* One advisor alone, Sharon Donovan, had 152 ties.

* More than 50% of committee members had 30 or more conflicts.

* The most frequent and durable corporate connections were with Kellogg, Abbott, Kraft, Mead Johnson, General Mills, and Dannon.

“The dietary guidelines are the gold-standard for nutrition advice, and the millions of Americans whose health relies upon that advice deserve transparency,” said John Bates, executive director of The Nutrition Coalition.

About the Author

Dave Fusaro | Editor in Chief

Dave Fusaro has served as editor in chief of Food Processing magazine since 2003. Dave has 30 years experience in food & beverage industry journalism and has won several national ASBPE writing awards for his Food Processing stories. Dave has been interviewed on CNN, quoted in national newspapers and he authored a 200-page market research report on the milk industry. Formerly an award-winning newspaper reporter who specialized in business writing, he holds a BA in journalism from Marquette University. Prior to joining Food Processing, Dave was Editor-In-Chief of Dairy Foods and was Managing Editor of Prepared Foods.

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