Grain chain sees need for clear definitions in guidelines

WASHINGTON — The need for critical definitions and strong support for a healthy equity lens are among the topics members of the grain chain would like to see the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Health Agriculture (USDA) take into consideration as they begin work on the 2025-2030 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The grain chain, which is a group of leading grain-based food organizations, commented on the proposed scientific questions to be examined as part of the review supporting the development of the new guidelines in a May 16 letter to HHS. . Specifically, the grain chain focused on the critical definitions needed before the start of the 2025 DGA review process; the value of grain food processing; supporting a health equity lens through the review process; the need for a balanced approach between consumption and physical activity; and the critical candidate selection criteria of the Dietary Recommendations Advisory Committee (DGAC).

“Agencies should clearly define the following terms: ‘nutrient-dense’, ‘non-dairy’, ‘meatless alternatives’, ‘ultra-processed’, ‘processed’ and ‘low-processed’,” the cereal chain said in a statement. May press release. 16 letter to HHS and USDA. “These definitions will be critical to the guidance and interpretation (of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee) applied to each scientific question.”

The Cereal Chain also noted that the DGA needs to consider other ways of approaching foods at varying degrees of processing, especially “processed” foods that have beneficial attributes and improve nutrient content through added dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals.

“For grains, whether it’s wheat, rice, maize or other grains, some form of processing is needed to make the nutrients available and digestible,” the grain chain said. “In the case of enriched (refined) white bread and enriched pasta, where nutrients are reduced or lost during processing, the nutrients are replaced as part of the enrichment process in amounts equal to or greater than those in breads or whole grain pasta.

“The enrichment and fortification of refined grains has made significant and lasting contributions to improving the health of Americans. It is of great concern that these revolutionary health achievements are currently under threat, as some consumers turn away from grains in response to low carbohydrate diets. In fact, in response to consumer demands for “clean labels”, some food manufacturers are considering moving away from fortification and fortification of grain products, which could negatively impact nutrition and public health. »

HHS and USDA said all scientific questions will be reviewed through a “health equity lens” to ensure the new guidelines are relevant to people from diverse racial, ethnic, socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds. , an approach that has been strongly supported by the cereal chain. The grain chain recommended that factors such as food cost, food availability and food accessibility be specified in the written framework of each scientific question to be highlighted and incorporated more formally into the scientific review. .

“While we believe these factors should be part of every DGA process, they are especially relevant now that the administration’s top priorities include health equity, ending hunger and nutrition security. “, said the cereal chain. “These goals are made all the more difficult as the rate of inflation in the United States is at its highest level in decades and the food industry continues to grapple with significant and serious supply chain issues. “

Another area of ​​concern is dietary habits. While HHS and USDA have expressed interest in weight loss and exploring dietary patterns that may contribute to obesity, the cereal chain said it was equally important to focus on activity. physique and the need for balance.

“Obesity does not indicate nutritional adequacy,” the cereal chain said. “In fact, it often indicates a nutrient-poor diet, especially when poverty is a factor. The focus should be on nutritional value and balance, not just calories. In addition, many grain foods can help improve the quality of the diet by encouraging the consumption of healthy low-calorie, high-fiber foods and by increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables.Thus, the DGA must consider the quality of the diet as a whole and not just the types of foods to be included The DGAC should also be sensitive to consumers with eating disorders regarding messages on body weight image and calories.

HHS and USDA will consider all public comments to prioritize scientific questions for DGAC consideration. The resulting DGAC report will be used to develop the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2025-2030. The members of the DGAC have not yet been selected.

The cereal chain has been established for several rounds of the DGA review process to enable consensus building on policy priorities and messaging to promote the health benefits of cereal foods. Members include American Bakers Association, Cereal and Grains Association, Independent Bakers Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Pasta Association, North American Millers’ Association, Retail Bakers of America, USA Rice Federation and the Wheat Food Council.