December 29, 2020

Produce groups react to new Dietary Guidelines for Americans

The Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH) commends the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) for releasing the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 (DGA).

The complete guidelines can be found here.

This document is written for policymakers and health professionals and provides evidence-based recommendations for healthy eating patterns in the U.S. Importantly, the main message of the newly released DGA is: Make Every Bite Count. More than ever, the two food groups that desperately need this advice to be heeded are fruits and vegetables.

“Given PBH’s commitment to advancing the role that all forms of fruits and vegetables — fresh, frozen, canned, dried and 100% juice — play in improving health and well-being, we commend the agencies for their dedication to completing the new DGA and continuing to keep fruits and vegetables at the forefront of dietary guidance,” said Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak, MS, RDN, president and CEO for PBH. “As a MyPlate National Strategic Partner and purpose-driven organization focused on improving produce consumption among all Americans, we fully support these recommendations and pledge to work collaboratively to promote fruits and vegetables first for happier, healthier lives, as most Americans still simply do not eat enough.”

There is strong scientific evidence that healthy eating patterns are associated with positive health outcomes, and higher intakes of vegetables and fruit are consistently identified as characteristics of healthy eating patterns. Still, of the 2-3 cups of vegetables and 1½ to 2 cups of fruit per day recommended for adults 19 and older, current intake in this population is just 1.6 and 0.9 cups of vegetables and fruits per day, respectively — well below even the range minimums.

A different way of putting it is this — nine out of 10 adults simply do not get enough. Finally, and most concerning, these intake levels have not changed significantly since 2003-2004. Such flat and/or declining intake trends are very concerning to PBH as well as many other food system thought leaders.

In response, PBH called out America’s chronic consumption crisis and implored that new fruit and vegetable consumption behaviors become a national priority. More than 25 leading fruit and vegetable companies and organizations signed on to support PBH research aimed at improving consumption as of December 2020, with more expected to join the cause in 2021.

While the DGA articulate science-based recommendations behind the health benefits of fruits and vegetables, consumption statistics as well as PBH’s research has shown that these facts, or what people know, are simply not enough to motivate behavior change.

The DGA is the first set of guidelines that provide standards for healthy dietary patterns by life stage, from birth through older adulthood, including pregnant and lactating women.

United Fresh reacts

United Fresh Produce Association President & CEO Tom Stenzel issued the following statement:

“Today’s release of the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans comes with a critical message to “Make Every Bite Count.”  That begins with the simple step to make half our plates fruits and vegetables, including a wide variety of mostly whole and fresh-cut fruits and vegetables.

“During the unveiling of the Dietary Guidelines, USDA and HHS data showed the sad reality that Americans’ eating habits haven’t changed for the better, despite decades of similar guidelines. But, today’s reality facing the COVID-19 pandemic brings greater urgency than ever before. We know that diet-related conditions such as obesity and diabetes put people at greater risk of severe illness and even death. No longer are we just thinking about poor diets leading to long-term chronic disease; now, we see clearly that healthy eating is a critical defense against communicable diseases such as the coronavirus.

“The Dietary Guidelines mostly repeat what we already know about healthy eating. Now is the time for the political will to actually implement this critical public health advice throughout all federal food programs.”

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