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WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), member of the Senate Appropriations Health Subcommittee and Senate Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee Chairman, questioned U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell this week regarding the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans. In the report, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recommends heavily plant-based diets that are much lower in lean red meat than what is currently recommended because of concerns over “increased greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use and energy use.” This recommendation not only threatens beef producers from across Kansas and the country, but also factors in environmental sustainability – a field outside the committee members’ charter, background and expertise. 

See below highlights from the hearing:

Sen. Moran: (0:08) “You and…Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack are charged with developing dietary guidelines… and at least to many of us, it's a very controversial report because it includes in their recommendations and they admit they’re taking into account topics outside nutrition and diet, and specifically considering environmental sustainability. So dietary guidelines [are] now being expanded to include consideration of sustainability, contrary to the statutory framework by which you and Secretary Vilsack are instructed to develop the guidelines.”

Sen. Moran: (1:59) “I want you to assure me that you intend to…disregard areas that are outside your instructions in developing dietary guidelines, that you will stay true to the issues of diet and nutritional science, and not expand the dietary guidelines to something beyond its intended scope.”

Sec. Burwell: (2:24) “So actually, the secretary and I have spoken. It was about an issue that he spoke with me and then I think received your letter after…and we extended the period of comment.

Sec. Burwell: (3:17) “As with any issue, I will always want to abide by the statute, and as we work to implement that, that's what we will do.”

Sen. Moran: (3:33) “…Do you share the view that the dietary guidelines are to be developed around dietary and nutritional science and nothing more?”

Sec. Burwell: (3:45) “…I have to be honest and say I have not reviewed the statute closely enough to be able to answer that question in the specific way that you have posed it…”

Sen. Moran: (4:08) “Does that suggest you're going to color…within the lines?”

Sec. Burwell: (4:12) “It suggests that I need to read the statute because I shouldn't answer a question, I apologize, until I actually know what a statute says. I do want to actually abide by the statute. And that's something at this point in the process, I apologize, I haven't gotten to.”

On March 17, 2015, USDA and HHS extended the initial 45-day comment period for stakeholders to comment on the “Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee” by an additional 30 days. In March, Sen. Moran joined 29 of his Senate colleagues in calling on USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell to issue an extension. Additionally, the senators requested that USDA and HHS stay within statutory guidelines, consider the most relevant nutrition scientific literature, and reject the committee’s inconsistent conclusions and recommendations regarding the role of lean red meat in a healthy diet.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which form the basis of federal nutrition policy, are reviewed every five years. A recent advisory committee report recommending what foods should be included in the new guidelines leaves lean red meat out of what it considers to be a healthy diet due to reasons unrelated to nutritional science.

YOUTUBE: Click here to watch Sen. Moran’s remarks on YouTube.

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