When the federal government updates dietary guidelines for Americans next year, fresh fruits and vegetables will likely be more prominent than ever, based on comments and initial findings of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.
Committee members met recently for the fourth of six meetings that began in June 2013 and are scheduled to conclude at the end of this year when they submit their report to the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services.
The USDA is scheduled to revise its dietary guidelines by the end of 2015 based on the advisory committee’s recommendations. The guidelines are key to school nutrition standards and other federal programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
So far, many of the committee’s draft conclusions confirm what fresh produce industry groups consistently find in their own research: Americans don’t eat enough fresh fruits and vegetables and many common health problems could be reduced if they ate more.
The Produce Marketing Association’s vice president of government relations and public affairs, Kathy Means, said PMA remains pleased with the current “half-a-plate” recommended guideline from the government, but would welcome additional support in the 2015 version of the official dietary guidelines.
“We certainly expect the strong emphasis on fruits and vegetables to continue in the next iteration,” Means said. “We still need strong promotion from government, industry, health professionals, chefs, and anyone else associated with food.”
Part of the advisory committee’s work in the past year has been to review current eating habits and health conditions of Americans. Subcommittees of the group have already reviewed thousands of research projects and reports, according to presentations July 17-18.
“Across all age and gender groups, the vast majority of the U.S. population does not meet recommended intakes for fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy food groups,” according to one draft conclusion from one subcommittee.
The research shows more than 60% of all age groups except children 8 years and younger eat too few fruits. The youngest children reviewed, ages 2-8, are 30% to 40% below the recommended consumption of fruits.
On the vegetable side, more than 80% of all ages, except the 50-71 age group, eat too few vegetables. Of the 50-71 year olds, more than 65% eat too few vegetables.
Research also shows the situation is not getting better.
“The U.S. population has made few dietary changes over time — 2001-04 and 2007-2010,” according to one subcommittee report. “Fruit intake has remained low, but stable. Vegetable intake has declined, particularly among children of all ages, adolescents and young adult males.”