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  • USDA and HHS are responsible for updating and releasing the Dietary Guidelines. This includes oversight of the Advisory Committee, providing for public input, and developing and coordinating clearance of the Dietary Guidelines throughout each Department.

Who’s Involved

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 original and existing 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. To manage resources, the Committee also may use high-quality existing systematic reviews and meta-analysis. 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 Role of the Public

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. 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, providing opportunities for public input, and developing and coordinating clearance of the updated Dietary Guidelines throughout each Department.  

The Departments use the previous edition of the Dietary Guidelines, the Committee’s scientific report and public comments as starting points for updates and revisions. Additionally, Federal agencies with expertise in nutrition and health are consulted to provide technical advice and feedback – in the form of agency comments – on the Committee’s Report. This feedback does not change the findings of the Advisory Committee’s scientific report. Rather, it helps to inform the development of the Dietary Guidelines. 

The Dietary Guidelines is written by Federal staff with specialized expertise in nutrition evidence review, as well as in translation and application of the evidence to Federal programs. The Departments also coordinate a peer-review with external (outside of the Federal government) scientific experts to assess the clarity of the proposed Dietary Guidelines, as well as its translation of identified scientific information from the Advisory Committee’s scientific report. After peer review and Federal agency review and clearance, the updated edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is sent to the Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services for approval and release.