AMI Defends Importance of Meat in Diet

US - The American Meat Institute (AMI) has defended the importance of meat and poultry in the diet in comments to the Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS).
calendar icon 9 July 2010
clock icon 4 minute read

The comments were given in response to the recent release of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Technical Report.

AMI Director of Scientific Affairs, Betsy Booren, Ph.D., noted in her testimony that meat and poultry is allocated a relatively small part of the pyramid, yet the benefits from its share of the pyramid are significant.

Dr Booren pointed out that in addition to protein, meat and poultry also are important and rich sources of micronutrients such as iron, selenium, vitamins A, B12 and folic acid. These nutrients are not present in plant foods or, if they are, they have low bioavailability. Supplementation, while useful, does not completely address issues of bioavailability.

Also significant was the discussion during the May 2010 meeting of Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (Committee) that the meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts food group is currently consumed at or less than the current recommended amount. This conclusion may be a surprise to many who are under the mistaken impression that Americans over-eat meat and poultry products, Dr Booren said.

She explained: "As you develop the Dietary Guidelines, we urge you to word the recommendation in such a way that does not lead consumers to reduce their meat, poultry, and beans consumption. Language in the technical report recommending that consumers 'moderate' their meat and poultry consumption may be perceived as advice to 'reduce' their consumption, which could have unintended consequences by creating nutritional deficiencies, Dr Booren told USDA and HHS.

Concerns about unintended consequences are not a new concept to the Committee. At the April 2010 meeting, Committee member, Dr Eric Rimm, discussed his concern that a recommendation to eat a low fat diet in the 1970s led in part to over-consumption of simple carbohydrates and this change in diet may have contributed to Americans' current obesity epidemic. AMI encouraged the agencies to consider this with respect to meat and poultry guidelines and not create a similar mistake.

Dr Booren also addressed some sections of the report that reveal a strong bias against processed meats, largely due to concerns about sodium levels in some products.

She said the industry is actively involved in efforts to reduce sodium in its products with over 50 per cent of the processed meat and poultry market undergoing recent sodium reduction reformulation. Some companies are promoting their efforts through labelling 'reduced sodium'. Others are handling it more quietly, fearing that such labelling is the adverse marketing equivalent of a 'Mr Yuck' sticker on a package. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans was first released in 1980 and is the basis for federal nutrition policy and education. The Dietary Guidelines Committee's technical report will serve as the basis for a revision of these guidelines. HHS and USDA are expected to publish their revisions later this year.

AMI has been actively engaged in the development of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, participating in all six Committee meetings and twice submitting detailed comments concerning sodium's role in meat and poultry products and the health benefits of consuming animal-based proteins as part of a balanced diet.

Further Reading

- You can view Dr Booren's comments by clicking here.
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