SFA Members Head to the Hill for day in D.C.

by Ann Przybyla Wilkes
VP of Communications
SFA members need to speak up now,” was the advice of Elizabeth (Beth) Johnson, Senior Advisor on Nutrition Issues, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Speaking about the new Dietary Guidelines to be issued by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and U.S. Department of Agriculture, Johnson advised attendees at SFA’s Day in D.C. luncheon that the scientific committee developing the guidelines needs to be given relevant information now.
With the final meeting of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee set for May 26-27, 2004, in Washington, D.C. and a release date scheduled for January 2005, the 13-member committee is near the end of the review process. Due to the phenomenal media attention the Dietary Guidelines are receiving, Johnson stressed that it will be hard to change any of the scientific committee’s recommendations.
Explaining that communicating nutritional information to consumers is a challenge for USDA, Johnson told attendees that the Department is looking for ways to work with groups and companies to accomplish this. Specifically, said Johnson, USDA is considering using industry and other partners to convey to consumers the information in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the new Food Pyramid currently under development.
When asked if the new Dietary Guidelines or food pyramid reflect the current low-carb trend, Johnson emphasized that they will be based on the science, although she acknowledged that it will be challenging to go against public opinion. Johnson also noted that the American diet has a direct impact on agriculture and that this is an era where agriculture is changing to become more consumer-driven.
“We need to watch the trends,” she said, adding that it’s not the government’s responsibility to mandate what people eat but to provide information on what is effective in getting needed nutrition.
After Johnson’s presentation, SFA members went to Capitol Hill to meet with their elected officials.
With all 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives as well as one-third of the U.S. Senate up for election this November, SFA members were eager to let their home-state legislators know their views on a variety of issues ranging from school lunch reauthorization to obesity lawsuits to general business issues.