By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS

Officials with the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services testified Wednesday that guidelines regulating nutrition policy are based on science.

HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack told the House Committee on Agriculture that a majority of recommendations made through the Dietary Guidelines for Americans have remained consistent over time and are based on a preponderance of scientific evidence.

The guidelines — which are used to set nutrition policy for the nation, including the $16 billion school lunch program — are updated every five years.

Still, some Congressional leaders expressed doubts and concern about how the guidelines are created and how they could adversely impact food-based industries in their home districts.

Rep. Jim Walz (D-Minn.) chastised his fellow legislators, saying they should focus more on the cost of obesity.

Other points of discussion this week about the guidelines included:

  • Criticism on sodium recommendations by Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), the committee’s ranking member. Peterson said during the hearing that he did not believe the research behind the sodium guidelines was strong enough to support Dietary Guidelines for Americans from 2010 or the current proposed updates. Rep. Rick Allen (R-Georgia) said sodium recommendations should not be a one-size-fits-all doctrine and argued that the sodium guidelines for this year’s recommendations are flawed.
  • On Tuesday, the Agriculture Department and HHS said that sustainability would not be included, backing away from a report that recommended plant-based diets in order to help forestall climate change. The committee crafting the guidelines had been criticized as “politically motivated” after incorporating environmentalism into nutrition policy.

The guidelines are expected to be finalized before the end of the year.