Who’s Involved in Updating the Dietary Guidelines
The Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services update and release the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 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 have evolved the process to update the Dietary Guidelines over time, in step with developments in nutrition science, public health, and best practices in scientific review and guidance development.
Each edition of the Dietary Guidelines builds on the one that came before it, with the scientific basis for revisions informed by 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 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 is used to evaluate the health of Americans and their diets, and food pattern modeling examines how changes to the amounts or types of foods and beverages in a dietary pattern might affect meeting nutrient needs. To promote transparency, the Committee discusses all of its work in public meetings and supporting materials are provided to the public through DietaryGuidelines.gov.
The public is encouraged to provide input at various times throughout the process. Before the Committee is established, the public is invited to provide comments on the topics and scientific questions to be examined by the Committee. The public can also nominate people to USDA and HHS for Committee membership. During the period of time the Committee is reviewing the evidence, the public is invited to submit written comments, and to provide oral testimony to the Committee. 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 the next edition of the Dietary Guidelines.
Developing the Dietary Guidelines involves a step-by-step process of writing, review, and revision supported by a writing team of Federal staff from USDA and HHS. The draft Dietary Guidelines goes through several rounds of review and revisions by peer-reviewers outside of the Federal government and all Agencies with nutrition policies and programs across USDA and HHS, such as NIH, FDA, CDC, ARS, FNS, and FSIS. The final step of this process is Departmental clearance, which ends with the review and signoff of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans by the Secretaries of USDA and HHS.
Once released, the new edition of the Dietary Guidelines replaces the previous edition. The release of the new edition is communicated to nutrition and health professionals within and outside of the Federal government for broad implementation. To learn more, visit our page on this topic.