The Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) update and release the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (Dietary Guidelines). It was first released in 1980, and is mandated to be released every five years under the 1990 National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act. The law requires the Dietary Guidelines to be based on the current body of nutrition science. USDA and HHS are committed to enhancing the Dietary Guidelines development process with each edition, to make sure that the best dietary advice is available to promote health and help prevent disease for all Americans.
Each edition of the Dietary Guidelines builds on the one that came before it, and considers the scientific report from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, and review of public and agency comments. Here is how USDA and HHS coordinate each of these pieces to update the Dietary Guidelines.
The Role of the Advisory Committee
The Departments use an external Federal Advisory Committee to review the current body of nutrition science. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (the Committee) includes nationally recognized scientific experts in nutrition and medicine. The product of the Committee’s work is a scientific report that is provided to the Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services.
The Committee is asked to look at nutrition science collectively to inform its report, rather than using individual scientific studies or personal testimonies. The Committee uses tools, such as systematic reviews, data analysis and food pattern modeling to carry out its work. Systematic reviews, include a rigorous process that allows the Committee to search, evaluate, and synthesize the body of nutrition research on a specific topic. Data analysis and/or food pattern modeling are used to evaluate the health of Americans and their diets and the likelihood that a proposed recommendation could be adopted. To promote transparency, the Committee discusses all of its work in public meetings.
The public is encouraged to provide input at various times throughout the process. Before the Committee is established, the public can nominate people to USDA and HHS for Committee membership. The public is invited to submit written comments to the Committee during the period of time it is working, and to provide oral testimony. Public comments are encouraged on the evidence under review by the Committee. Additionally, after the Committee’s scientific report is submitted to the Departments, for a period of time the public can give written comments as well as oral comments on the report at a public meeting.
The Role of the Federal Government
The Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services are responsible for updating and releasing the Dietary Guidelines. This includes oversight of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee to ensure compliance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act, providing opportunities for public input, and developing and coordinating clearance of the updated Dietary Guidelines throughout each Department.