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Over 29,000 Comments Received On Report Of Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee

US Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, and US Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), the panel’s top Democrat, on Thursday called on the heads of two federal agencies to outline a process for reviewing the more than 29,000 comments that were received on the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) report.

In February, the DGAC submitted its recommendations to US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, in order to inform the 2015 edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The period for commenting on that report was last Friday, May 8.

“Compared to prior advisory committee reports, 2015 was a seemingly unprecedented expansion of the scope of issues the committee chose to address beyond what has traditionally been associated with dietary recommendations,” Conaway and Peterson noted in a letter to Vilsack and Burwell.

“At a time when consumers are already subjected to conflicting and often contradictory nutrition and health information, staying within scope of the statutory intent by providing the public with science-based, realistic and achievable information is more likely to contribute to improved public health outcomes,” Conaway and Peterson added.

“We are aware that many of the comments that were developed by stakeholder groups included scientific studies and other evidence that observers assert had been ignored by the advisory committee,” the letter continued. “While some studies may garner particular interest, there were countless others that stakeholders submitted that are of value. We expect each and every comment to be considered by your agencies before you commence developing your proposed dietary guidelines.”

Conaway and Peterson said they believe there should be a “joint process to fully review and consider the public comments” before publishing new dietary guidelines. Now that the comment period has closed, it is “imperative” that, for the sake of transparency, such a process is outlined for members of Congress and the general public.

In describing such a process to review over 29,000 comments, Conaway and Peterson told Vilsack and Burwell that the House Agriculture Committee needs to fully understand the following:
• Will each agency (USDA and HHS) be review each and every comment received?

• How many agency staff have been reassigned to help address the increased workload? Have the proper entities been notified of this reprogramming of staff? How long is this additional staff expected to be reassigned? What workloads were they taken off of in order to assist with the process?

• Preliminary department plans indicated a desire to complete the necessary public materials, formally known as the “nutrition training report,” prior to the end of the calendar year, though it is not required until an additional 12 months following the release of the guidelines. Have Vilsack and Burwell reconsidered that goal, given the “overwhelming number” of comments that now need to be reviewed?
If not, do they intend to incorporate the review of the comments received into this work ...



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