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Dietary Guidelines Process - General

  • A: USDA and HHS are adding some additional new steps in the process to develop the next edition of the Dietary Guidelines in response to the National Academies’ recommendations, stakeholder feedback, and our commitment to have a transparent, inclusive, and science-driven process. Many of the key steps to develop the Dietary Guidelines will remain. We will have an Advisory Committee. The Committee will review evidence and provide a scientific report to USDA and HHS, and USDA and HHS will then develop the Dietary Guidelines. Revisions to the Dietary Guidelines will be informed by the scientific report from the Committee and consideration of Federal agency input and public comments. Stay connected with us throughout this process at DietaryGuidelines.gov and sign up to receive updates.

  • A: The Departments announced the members of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (see Press Release) in February 2019. The Committee will meet five times. All of the meetings will be open to the public; two meetings will include the opportunity for the public to provide oral comments to the Committee. The last meeting is tentatively scheduled for March 12-13, 2020. After this meeting, the Committee will conclude its work by submitting a scientific report to the Departments. Our goal continues to be to release the Dietary Guidelines by the end of 2020.

    An ongoing open public comment period for written comments began in March of 2019, and it will remain open until the Committee completes its work in 2020. We encourage all who are interested in the Committee’s work to stay engaged.

  • A: The 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee will hold its fourth meeting on January 23-24, 2020, in Houston, TX, to discuss findings for specific topics and supporting scientific questions related to nutrition and health from birth into older adulthood identified by the Departments. The Committee will meet approximately five times in total; all Committee meetings are open to the public. Additionally, the public is encouraged to submit public comments throughout the course of its operation. The next meeting will also provide another opportunity for the public to provide oral comments to the Committee. At the conclusion of its work, the Committee will develop a scientific report that will be submitted to the Secretaries of USDA and HHS. Upon delivery of its report to the Secretaries or when its 2-year charter expires (whichever comes first), the activities of the Committee will be terminated.

    We strongly encourage the public to stay engaged and participate in the Dietary Guidelines development process. Announcements, including information about meeting registration and registration to provide in-person oral comments at Meeting 4 in Houston, TX, will be made at DietaryGuidelines.gov, and through our list serv. For more information on opportunities for public participation related to the Advisory Committee’s review, see our page on this topic.

  • A: The National Academies committee identified five values to improve the integrity of the process to develop credible and trustworthy guidelines:

    1. Enhance transparency.
    2. Promote diversity of expertise and experience.
    3. Support a deliberative process.
    4. Manage biases and conflicts of interest.
    5. Adopt state-of-the-art processes and methods.

    USDA and HHS support these values and will continue to integrate steps to address these goals. For the first time, the Departments identified and asked for public comments on the topics and scientific questions to be examined in the review of the evidence supporting the development of the upcoming 2020-2025 edition of the Dietary Guidelines. The Departments added this step in order to promote a deliberate and transparent process, respond to feedback on the Dietary Guidelines development process, identify the expertise needed on the Committee, help manage resources, and ensure the science-based review provided by the Committee addresses Federal nutrition policy and program needs. For more information, see our page regarding the National Academies’ recommendations.

  • A: Yes, there are multiple opportunities for the public to participate in the Advisory Committee’s work. Starting on March 12, 2019, and lasting throughout the Advisory Committee’s deliberations, expected to end in 2020, the public can submit comments to the Advisory Committee (see Federal Register notice). Additionally, the public is welcome to attend – in person or via webinar – all of the Advisory Committee’s meetings.  The next meeting will be held on January 23-24, 2020, in Houston, TX. This meeting will provide an opportunity for the public to provide oral comments in person to the Committee. An announcement on how to register for oral comments will be made in early December. Visit the Meeting 4 page to learn more.

    We strongly encourage the public to stay engaged and participate in the Dietary Guidelines development process. Announcements will be made at DietaryGuidelines.gov, via the Federal Register, and through our list serv. For more information on opportunities for public participation related to the Advisory Committee’s review, see our page on this topic.

Advisory Committee

  • A: The public call for nominations to the Advisory Committee was open from September 6 to October 6 and the Departments announced the members in February 2019. See the list of members here.

    About the Committee

  • A: The process used to establish the Advisory Committee included review of complete nomination packages by program staff from USDA Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services (FNCS), the USDA Research, Education, and Economics (REE), and the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH); evaluation of nominees by leadership from USDA/FNCS, USDA/REE and HHS/OASH; vetting by the USDA Office of the Secretary; and review by the USDA Office of Ethics. All individuals considered to serve as members of the Advisory Committee completed a Confidential Financial Disclosure Report (the OGE Form 450) prior to being appointed, which was reviewed by UDSA’s Office of Ethics (see letter). Members of the Committee were jointly agreed upon by the Secretaries of USDA and HHS. The Advisory Committee receives ethics training on an annual basis.

    Factors considered in selecting individuals to serve on the Advisory Committee included educational background, professional experience, and demonstrated scientific expertise in the issues to be examined by the Committee, as well as statutory obligations under the Federal Advisory Committee Act and requirements regarding a balanced membership. This process is described further at Learn How USDA-HHS Established the Advisory Committee.

     

  • A: The National Academies’ first report on the Advisory Committee selection process included four recommendations. USDA and HHS carefully considered each recommendation for establishing the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, including consideration of Federal statutes, regulations, and guidance, and provide responses to the recommendations on our website. USDA and HHS are considering recommendations from the second report throughout the multi-year process of developing the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

  • A: Factors USDA and HHS considered in selecting individuals to serve on the Advisory Committee include:

    • Educational background — advanced degree in nutrition- or health-related field, including registered dietitians, nutrition scientists, physicians, and those with public health degrees
    • Professional experience — at least 10 years of experience as an academic, researcher, practitioner, or other health professional in a field related to one or more of the topics to be examined; consideration of leadership experience and participation on previous committees or panels
    • Demonstrated scientific expertise — expertise related to one or more of the topics to be examined by the Committee as demonstrated by number and quality of peer-reviewed publications and presentations
    • Obligations under the Federal Advisory Committee Act — ensuring the Committee is balanced fairly in points of view and types of expertise
    • Requirements regarding a balanced membership — including, to the extent possible, individuals who are minorities, women, persons with disabilities, and representatives from different geographic areas and institutions
  • A: No. There is one 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee to address nutrition from birth into older adulthood. This allows for an efficient review of the scientific evidence across the lifespan. We have allowed for a larger committee (up to 20 members) anticipating that more members are needed to address the additional topics related to pregnancy and birth to 24 months. Time and resource constraints also prevent the establishment of a separate Advisory Committee.

  • A: We accepted all nominations per the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which does not limit nationality. However, it was decided that the Advisory Committee members selected to examine topics and questions to help inform the Departments’ development of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans should be U.S. citizens, as the Guidelines’ purview and implementation is only in the United States. We do appreciate the nominations and, if appropriate, the Committee may invite guest speakers of any nationality if the individuals bring relevant scientific expertise in any of the topic and question areas provided to them.

  • A: The Advisory Committee will hold its next meeting on January 23-24, 2020, in Houston, TX. More information about meeting registration will be provided through DietaryGuidelines.gov, once meeting registration opens, at least 15 days in advance of the meeting date. Upcoming meeting dates and archived materials from previous meetings can be found by visiting the Advisory Committee Meeting page.

  • A:  We welcome and encourage the public to participate in the Advisory Committee’s review process in two ways: (1) Submit public comments to the Advisory Committee at any point during their public comment period starting on March 12 and lasting throughout their work, expected to end in 2020. (2) Advisory Committee meeting 4 will include an opportunity for the public to provide oral comments to the Committee. People who are interested in providing oral comments will need to register. Meeting registration to attend the meeting and/or provide oral comments will be announced at DietaryGuidelines.gov and through our list serv.

    We encourage people to attend the meetings and follow the Committee's work at DietaryGuidelines.gov.

  • A:  The Advisory Committee will hold approximately five public meetings. All Committee meetings will be open to the public. Additionally, the public is encouraged to submit public comments starting on March 12, 2019, throughout the course of the Committee’s work, expected to end in 2020.

Advisory Committee Charter

  • A:  A charter is a document that is required by law to establish a Federal advisory committee. Information about the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee charter, including a copy of the charter, can be found at Review the Charter for the Advisory Committee.

  • A:  The Advisory Committee will limit its review and advice to dietary guidance for human nutrition on the topics and scientific questions specified by the Departments. The Departments went through a public process to identify the topics and scientific questions to be examined in the review of the evidence that will support the development of the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines. The list of topics and questions reflects nutrition issues that are relevant, important, and potentially impactful to Federal nutrition policy and programs and are not currently addressed through other Federal efforts.

  • A: Recent Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committees have had co-executive secretaries from both USDA and HHS. There have been legally required changes in the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee charter in response to an issue raised by the Government Services Administration Committee Management Secretariat, the Federal entity that is responsible for all matters relating to Federal advisory committees. (5 U.S.C. App. 2 § 7(a)). Section 708, of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018, a Government-Wide provision, prohibits the interagency financing of advisory committees. Additionally, the Federal Advisory Committee Act requires that only one agency may be responsible for support services at any one time, even if the advisory committee reports to more than one agency (5 U.S.C. § App. 2 § 12(b)). For these reasons, the co-executive secretaries for the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee are from USDA. Per the National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act, USDA and HHS will continue to work collectively on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

  • A:  Yes. The Departments added a peer-review step in response to recommendations from the National Academies and stakeholder input; additionally, peer-review is a best practice for conducting systematic reviews.

  • A:  No. The primary purpose of consultants is for an advisory committee to bring in specific expertise that the committee does not have among any of its members. Identifying topics and scientific questions before establishing the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee – a new step to the process – allowed the Departments to appoint members with relevant expertise related to the topics to be examined. The 2020 Advisory Committee’s charter allows for more members than previous years to accommodate additional expertise needed.

  • A:  No, members of the Advisory Committee will serve without pay. Reimbursement for travel and hotel expenses to attend in-person meetings is provided, including per diem.

Review of the Evidence

  • A:  USDA and HHS identified topics and scientific questions to be examined in the review of the evidence supporting the development of the upcoming 2020-2025 edition of the Dietary Guidelines. The topics and supporting questions focus on priority scientific questions from birth into older adulthood and reflect a continued focus on patterns of what we eat and drink as a whole, on average and over time. See the Topics and Questions to be Examined by the Committee.

  • A: The Federal government is required to define the Committee's mission and specific duties. USDA and HHS added the step of determining the topics and questions for the 2020 Committee to:

    • Promote a deliberate and transparent process;
    • Ensure the Committee addresses diet and health across the lifespan, including pregnant women, infants, and toddlers;
    • Identify expertise needed on the Committee;
    • Help manage resources; and
    • Ensure the scientific review addresses Federal nutrition policy and program needs.

    USDA and HHS did not determine the topics and questions unilaterally. We created a transparent and inclusive process that involved input from scientists across multiple Federal agencies and thousands of public comments.

  • A:  During the public comment period of February 28 - March 30, 2018, more than 12,000 comments were received via more than 6,000 submissions to Regulations.gov. All submissions are accessible to the public on our page on Regulations.gov. USDA and HHS reviewed and considered every comment in relation to our four criteria: relevance, importance, potential Federal impact, and avoiding duplication. For more on this subject, see our page on this process. In brief, the criteria were:

    • Relevance: Topic is within the scope of the Dietary Guidelines. The focus of the Dietary Guidelines is food-based recommendations; changes to the Dietary Reference Intakes are not within the scope of the Dietary Guidelines. Clinical guidelines for the medical treatment and care of individuals with specific diseases and conditions are not included in the Dietary Guidelines.
    • Importance: Topics for which there are new, relevant data and that represent an area of substantial public health concern, uncertainty, and/or a knowledge gap.
    • Potential Federal Impact: Probability that guidance on the topic in the Dietary Guidelines would inform Federal food and nutrition policies and programs.  
    • Avoiding Duplication: Topic is not currently addressed through existing evidence-based Federal guidance (other than the Dietary Guidelines).
  • A: USDA and HHS have asked the 2020 Committee to review all aspects of the diet under the questions on “dietary patterns” (i.e., patterns of foods, drinks, and nutrients, including meats, fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy in all forms people consume), as noted on the list of topics and questions. USDA and HHS expanded the charge for the topic of dietary patterns, asking the 2020 Committee to look at a larger number of health outcomes compared to what the 2015 Committee was asked to consider.

    Aspects of the diet will also be addressed in other questions the Committee is examining, including questions on beverages, added sugars, and types of dietary fat. Some diet-related topics, such as sodium and food safety, are addressed in existing evidence-based Federal guidance. As such, the 2020 Committee was not tasked with new reviews of these and other topics to prevent duplication of efforts. This was noted in the list of topics and questions posted with the call for nominations in September 2018. As an example, the Committee will rely on Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) for sodium, potassium, and other nutrients set by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) as it evaluates current nutrient intakes and identifies nutrients of public health concern. This is the same approach as previous Committees used and is outlined in the protocols available on this website.

  • A: The 2020 Committee is made up of nationally recognized scientists selected from the public’s nominations based entirely on factors outlined in the call for nominations: education; scientific expertise related to the topics and questions to be examined; professional experience; requirement to balance the full Committee; and Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) obligations, including, representing to the extent possible, individuals who are minorities, women, persons with disabilities, and individuals from different geographic areas and institutions.

    For the first time, as part of the selection process, the financial conflict of interest reviews were completed by the USDA Office of Ethics officials before appointing each member to the 2020 Committee. Historically, these reviews were completed after the Committee was appointed. Ethics officials reviewed the financial disclosure reports for potential conflicts of interest and impartiality concerns as defined by the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 and its implementing regulations, as well as compliance with all other pertinent federal ethics laws and regulations. They concluded that none of the 20 Committee members reported any entries on their financial disclosure report that would prevent them from being appointed and providing the complete range of duties required of a Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee member.

  • A:  As the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee works to answer the scientific questions from USDA and HHS, they are using three rigorous approaches to examine the evidence: data analysis, systematic reviews, and food pattern modeling. Each of these approaches has a unique, complementary role in examining the science. Visit this page to follow the Committee’s work on answering each question.

    To support the review of evidence, the Advisory Committee has divided into six subcommittees and one cross-cutting working group. Each subcommittee conducts its work between Committee meetings. The subcommittees provide updates for full Committee deliberation during the Committee’s meetings, which are held publicly. For more information, see Subcommittees of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.

     

  • A:  The decision to use systematic reviews solely using NESR maintains the scientific integrity of the 2020 Committee’s work. USDA and HHS made this decision considering:

    • 2018 NASEM/HMD report on the process to update the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (**see note below);
    • Processes used by other systematic review organizations, such as Cochrane and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality;
    • Staff experience in using and/or updating existing systematic reviews as part of previous systematic review projects, including the 2010 and 2015 Committees’ work;
    • Stakeholder feedback on the 2015 Committee’s process, obtained via public comments and listening sessions;
    • Thorough consideration of timeline and resources available to the 2020 Committee; and
    • The need for all reviews to meet criteria for relevance, timeliness, quality, and transparent documentation.

    The Committee’s systematic reviews will be supported by USDA’s NESR. In its systematic reviews, the 2020 Committee will consider all primary studies that meet the criteria the Committee establishes in its protocols for the scientific questions. The process of reviewing the evidence includes examination of original research conducted by scientists external to and independent from the Federal government and published in peer-reviewed journals.

    **Note: The development of de novo – new – reviews was addressed in the NASEM report conducted on the Dietary Guidelines process. Within the report the committee states, in full:

    “Overall, this National Academies committee believes that using existing high-quality systematic reviews whenever possible maximizes limited time and resources and reduces duplication of efforts. However, it is important to recognize that existing systematic reviews may not use the same inclusion and exclusion criteria, may be out of date, or have different outcomes (Smith et al., 2011; Whitlock et al., 2008). As a result, using existing systematic reviews may be more time and resource intensive than conducting de novo systematic reviews.”

  • A: Systematic review is one of three approaches the 2020 Committee uses to conduct an independent review of the evidence for each of its scientific questions. Under this approach, the Committee:

    • Establishes all aspects of the protocol which presents the plan for how it will examine the scientific evidence, including the inclusion and exclusion criteria;
    • Reviews all studies that meet the criteria they set;
    • Deliberates on the body of evidence for each question; and
    • Writes and grades the conclusion statements to be included in the scientific report the 2020 Committee will submit to USDA and HHS.

    While the USDA and HHS are not required to have an advisory committee to help inform their development of the Dietary Guidelines, doing so has been a standing practice since 1985 with the express purpose of ensuring the Dietary Guidelines are grounded in scientific advice from independent experts. USDA and HHS respect and value the independent nature of the 2020 Committee’s scientific review, and similar to all previous Committees, staff have played an important role supporting the Committee in its review.

  • A: The 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is tasked with answering a set of topics and supporting scientific questions identified by USDA and HHS.  To answer those questions the Committee will use three approaches to examine the evidence: systematic reviews, data analysis, and food pattern modeling. Each of the scientific approaches has its own rigorous methodologies. In addition, for each of these approaches, a protocol is created that describes how the Committee plans to apply the methodology of one of the approaches to answer a specific scientific question. The protocol is developed before the Committee conducts its evidence review and is posted online for the public to view to better understand how the Committee plans to use the approach to answer a specific scientific question.

    The Committee will discuss the protocols during its meetings – all of which are open to the public – and updates to the protocols will be posted over the course of the Committee’s work.  

    Protocols are posted on a rolling basis as they are developed by the Committee.

  • A: Per the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) and Federal ethics standards, the 2020 Committee members are asked not to speak on behalf of the Committee. This guidance is not unique to the 2020 Committee but rather reflects each member’s appointment as a Special Government Employee (SGE) to a Federal advisory committee.

    Public meetings and DietaryGuidelines.gov are available for the media and the public to get information about the Committee’s work, and public comments are the appropriate venue for providing comments to the Committee. Media requests relating to the Dietary Guidelines, including the 2020 Committee, should be sent to press@fns.usda.gov.

Background

  • A:  The Dietary Guidelines are the cornerstone of Federal nutrition policy and nutrition education activities, providing food-based recommendations to promote health, help prevent diet-related disease, and meet nutrient needs. USDA and HHS jointly publish the Dietary Guidelines every 5 years.

  • A: Relied on by Federal agencies, the Dietary Guidelines serve as a central source of guidance that nutrition programs within the government can use to inform their food and nutrition programs and initiatives while tailoring their efforts for their specific audiences, like women and children. The Dietary Guidelines also support the development of science-based nutrition education messages and consumer materials for the general public, as well as for special audiences. Additionally, outside organizations and companies use the Dietary Guidelines in the private sector.

  • A:  The Dietary Guidelines were first released in 1980. In 1990, Congress passed the National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act, which mandates in Section 301 that USDA and HHS jointly publish the Dietary Guidelines every five years. The law requires that the Dietary Guidelines are based on the preponderance of current scientific and medical knowledge. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines is the current edition until the next edition is released.

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