On Feb. 26, USDA and Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a new step in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) development process. For the first time, the departments will seek public comments on the proposed priority topics and supporting scientific questions that will guide the development of the upcoming 2020-2025 edition of the DGA. The public may submit comments through the Federal Register; the comment period will be open from February 28, 2018 to March 30, 2018. The topics, supporting scientific questions, and link to submit public comments will be available at DietaryGuidelines.gov.
This new public comment stage at the beginning of the DGA development process helps maintain the integrity of the process and ensure transparency in communicating the topics that meet the priorities of federal nutrition programs. This new approach allows for more public participation over this multiyear development process. It also improves customer service by being more responsive to stakeholder recommendations and feedback.
USDA and HHS are proposing a life stage approach for this edition of the DGA, focusing on priority scientific questions from birth through older adulthood. The 2014 Farm Bill mandated that, starting with the 2020-2025 edition, the DGA provides guidance for women who are pregnant, as well as infants and toddlers from birth to 24 months. In addition to a focus on life stages, the topics and supporting questions for public comment reflect a continued focus on patterns of what we eat and drink, on average and over time, not on individual foods or food groups.
The 2020-2025 DGA topics which USDA and HHS propose are based on four criteria:
- Relevance – the topic is within the scope of the DGA and its focus on food-based recommendations, not clinical guidelines for medical treatment;
- Importance – the topic has new, relevant data and represents an area of substantial public health concern, uncertainty, and/or knowledge gap;
- Potential federal impact – there is a probability that guidance on the topic would inform federal food and nutrition policies and programs; and
- Avoiding duplication – the topic is not currently addressed through existing evidence-based federal guidance (other than the Dietary Guidelines).
After finalizing the topics and supporting questions, USDA and HHS will post a public call for the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee nominations. The areas of expertise needed will be based on the final topics and supporting scientific questions, resulting in a coordinated and efficient scientific review.
Mike Oscar is with the Northeast Farmer Cooperatives organization, representing four dairy cooperatives in the region in Washington, D.C. This piece appeared in the NDFC newsletter edited by Bob Gray dated Mar. 2 and is presented here with permission. Oscar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 703.751.0204