C. AMI defended the importance of meat and poultry in the diet in comments to the Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS). The comments were given in response to the recent release of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Technical Report.
AMI Director of Scientific Affairs Betsy Booren, Ph.D., noted in her testimony to USDA and HHS that meat and poultry are allocated a relatively small part of the pyramid, yet the benefits from its share of the pyramid are significant. Unfortunately, while the report affirms meat's nutritional value, it simultaneously advises consumers to moderate their consumption of meat, she said.
Booren pointed out that in addition to protein, meat and poultry are important and rich sources of micronutrients such as iron, selenium, Vitamins A, B12 and folic acid. These nutrients are not present in plant foods or, if they are, they have low bioavailibity. Supplementation, while useful, does not completely address issues of bioavailability.
Also significant was the discussion during the May 2010 meeting of Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (Committee) that the meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts food group is currently consumed at or less than the current recommended amount. This conclusion likely is a surprise to many who are under the mistaken impression that Americans over-eat meat and poultry products, Booren said.
Language in the technical report recommending that consumers ‘moderate' their meat and poultry consumption may be perceived as advice to ‘reduce' their consumption, which could have unintended consequences by creating nutritional deficiencies, Booren told USDA and HHS.
Booren also addressed some sections of the report that reveal a strong bias against processed meats, largely due to concerns about sodium levels in some products.
Booren said the industry is actively involved in efforts to reduce sodium in its products with over 50 percent of the processed meat and poultry market undergoing recent sodium reduction reformulation. Some companies are promoting their efforts through labelling "reduced sodium."
The Dietary Guidelines Committee's technical report will serve as the basis for a revision of these guidelines. HHS and USDA are expected to publish their revisions later this year.
AMI has been actively engaged in the development of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, participating in all six Committee meetings and twice submitting detailed comments concerning sodium's role in meat and poultry products and the health benefits of consuming animal-based proteins as part of a balanced diet.
Source: American Meat Institute (AMI)