What The Food Pyramid Might Have Been...

Last week, I posted a brief overview of the "process" the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) uses to formulate its food pyramid. It was an eye-opener to be sure, based on the huge subsidies corn and soybean farmers get and other fruit and vegetable growers don't! If you want a better understanding of the politics behind the food pyramid, I urge you to review this first-person account (link below) written by Dr. Luise Light, who once served as the leader of a group of top-level nutritionists with the USDA who developed the eating guide that became known as the Food Guide Pyramid back in the early 80s.

That's not exactly true... Dr. Light and her colleagues based their pyramid on nutrient recommendations, disease prevention, documented dietary shortfalls and major health problems of the population. Once their recommendations were forwarded to the Office of the Secretary of Agriculture, however, wholesale changes were made to win the acceptance of the food industry.

Some of the drastic and health-harming alterations made:

  • Processed foods were emphasized over fresh and whole foods.
  • Lean meats were downplayed because lobbyists feared consumers would stay away from high-fat products.
  • The meat lobby had the final word on the color of the saturated fat/cholesterol guideline chart -- from red to purple -- because producers believed consumers would link red to bad fat and red meat.

One quote says it all: In fact, to the food industry, the purpose of food guides is to persuade consumers that all foods (especially those that they're selling) fit into a healthful diet.

For the record, the newest food pyramid isn't much of an improvement from the previous model either.

Crusador Nov. 9, 2004

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