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Presenters Consider the Impact of Coming Dietary Policy Changes

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The coming months promise to bring a couple of major food and nutrition policy and regulatory developments—release of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Food and Drug Administration’s revision of the Nutrition Facts Panel.

Presenters at “The Proposed Nutrition Facts Panel and Updated Dietary Guidelines: Are They Challenges or Opportunities for Industry’s Hot Button Issues?” session on Monday, July 13, considered some of the ramifications of these high-profile developments.

One of the most discussed features of the Nutrition Facts Panel is the potential addition of a line calling out added sugars in food. “Added sugars have really become the new fat,” said session presenter Cassandra Soltis, corporate counsel for Starbucks Coffee Co.

Added sugars are also drawing the ire of state and local regulators, Soltis observed. The city of Berkeley, Calif., for example, has introduced a tax on sugary beverages that is on track to generate $1.2 million in revenues its first year in place.

Consumers and local government are already influencing food and nutrition issues, Soltis observed. “In order to stay relevant, companies really need to pay attention to what consumers want.”

Presenter Roger Clemens, a University of Southern California faculty member, noted the recent Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) report recommends three approaches to healthful eating: the healthy U.S.-style pattern; the healthy vegetarian pattern; and the healthy Mediterranean pattern. He raised concerns about nutrient deficiencies that might stem from adoption of some of these patterns.

Clemens said that there is a need to recognize the specific nutritional needs of different segments of the population. He pointed out that the most rapidly growing segment of the population is people over the age of 60, and the typical person in this age range uses 16 medications daily. “We need to address the nutritional needs of that population group,” he said. “Combine nutrient shortfalls with medications, and where does that leave us?”

Clemens suggested that there are no simple dietary fixes and that some common nutritional assumptions are not wholly accurate. For example, he said, “not all proteins are nutritionally equivalent, and consumers don’t get this.”

Finally, presenter Robert Post, senior director of nutrition and regulatory affairs at Chobani and former associate executive director of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, addressed some of the challenges and disconnects between science and policy.

One priority Post identified was creating dietary guidance that is actionable. For example, the DGAC report recommends that consumers reduce added sugars intake to less than 10% of total caloric intake, but consumers need more specific guidance on how exactly to make the dietary changes needed to accomplish that objective, he said.

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