Health Nutrition Science

Action Alert: Call for Nominations for the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee

Do you care about the guidance Americans receive on diet and nutrition? Do you want this guidance to provide recommendations on sustainable diets or other novel developments in nutrition science? Nominating an individual to the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is the place to start.

Background on the DGA

The DGA are the primary resource to help all Americans consume a healthy, nutritionally adequate diet. Thus, they are the foundation for federal nutrition programs, namely the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). They also provide a framework for the nutrition education efforts of health professionals, social workers, and others.

Under the National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act of 1990 the DGA are updated every 5 years and mandated to reflect new scientific evidence. Additionally, the 2014 Farm Bill mandated that the updated guidelines include dietary guidance for pregnant women and children from birth to 24 months.

In an effort to improve transparency in the DGA’s development and further involve the public, the United States Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services (USDA, HHS) asked for public comment on proposed scientific topics and questions to be examined by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee in the development of the upcoming 2020-2025 DGA. After reviewing these comments, USDA and HHS released the topics and scientific questions to be examined by the committee, which focus on how what Americans eat and drink can prevent disease and promote health.

Controversy in the 2015 DGA 

The process of creating the 2015-2020 dietary guidelines became highly controversial following the release of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s report. Somewhat of a media frenzy ensued, driven by strong accusations that the committee’s recommendations were “shockingly unscientific,” and had overstepped the boundary of dietary guidance. 

Although the report reflected many of the general guidelines provided in past years including emphasizing whole grains, low-fat dairy products, fruits, vegetables, nuts and fish, it also took a stance that meat consumption should be limited. The grounds for this stance centered on the committee’s introduction of a new dimension of dietary health: sustainability. The overall argument from the committee was that a dietary pattern with reduced meat consumption was “more health promoting” and “associated with a lesser environmental impact.”

A strong pushback against the committee’s sustainability recommendations followed from meat producers, policymakers, scientists, and others, who argued that sustainability was outside the realm of diet. Ultimately, then Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell announced that sustainability issues would not be included in the 2015-2020 DGA. No matter your stance on this issue, concerns for sustainable diets are sure to resurface during the development of the 2020-2025 DGA.

Call to Action

To prepare for the publication of the 2020 dietary guidelines the United States Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services have issued a call for nominations to the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.

The committee’s central purpose is to review the scientific evidence to help inform the next edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Factors considered in reviewing nominations include:

  • Educational background 
  • Professional experience 
  • Demonstrated scientific expertise 
  • Obligations under the Federal Advisory Committee Act 
  • Requirements regarding a balanced membership 

If you would like to nominate a qualified individual and have your views on American Dietary recommendations represented, please view the USDA website for information that should be included in the nomination package.

The deadline to submit nominations for the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is October 6, 2018, at 11:59 pm, Eastern Time.


Serena Baldwin is a first year FANPP student who gets way too excited every time Farm Bill season rolls around. She’s a strong advocate for food and nutrition policies that further public health and environmental goals. When she’s not thinking about food policy, she enjoys yoga and making sweet potato fries in her air fryer.

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The Friedman Sprout is a monthly student run newspaper that aims to serve the student population at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, prospective students, and alumni. Our mission is to report on newsworthy information that affects the Friedman community including nutrition research, food policy, internship and volunteer opportunities, as well as school events. Our editorial slant is that of sustainability in food and nutrition.

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