In the age of data and transparency, consumers are asking to know more about where their food is coming from and how and why nutrition recommendations are made. And one of the most influential sources of recommendations, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) is no exception.

In 2016, Congress directed the Secretary of Agriculture to engage the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) to conduct a comprehensive study of the process used to establish the DGA. The study produced two reports with recommendations for how the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) could improve transparency, objectivity and diversity of viewpoints throughout the process.

Last week, USDA/HHS hosted the first meeting of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC or the Committee), bringing us one step closer to the published 2020-2025 DGA. During this meeting, USDA shared their commitment to a process that is transparent, inclusive and science-driven. Here are the four things you need to know:

Several recommendations made by NASEM will be implemented during this process.

Already, we are seeing changes to the DGA process to improve transparency and public participation. The topics and questions were developed with public input, Committee members’ conflicts of interest will be reviewed annually and a new, formal peer-review process will be implemented during the evidence review stage.

USDA is giving the public a “peek behind the curtain,” sharing more information and detail behind the process and protocol for developing the DGA. 

In addition to reviewing the systematic review and data analysis protocols openly at this first meeting, USDA will be using a new, revamped dietaryguidelines.gov website for ongoing communication with the public. And, for the first time ever, subcommittee updates and progress on topics and questions will be posted to the website and updated monthly.

Systematic review processes have been refined to emphasize scientific integrity.

 As with previous cycles, all steps in the scientific review process will be documented to ensure transparency and reproducibility, and all protocol for the reviews will be posted to the NESR website. New this cycle is the increased rigor in assessing risk of bias, an evolved grading criterion for strength of evidence, a renaming of the Nutrition Evidence Library (NEL) to the Nutrition Evidence Systematic Review (NESR) and a peer review step for all new systematic reviews.

Public participation is encouraged throughout the process.

There are multiple opportunities for oral and written comments before, during and after the Committee’s review of the evidence. The public comment period opened on March 12, 2019 and will remain open until the Committee submits its scientific report to USDA/HHS in 2020. Oral comments will be presented during the next public meeting, July 10-11, 2019 in Washington, D.C. and during the January 23-24, 2020 Committee meeting in Houston, TX.

This article first appeared in Food Thoughts. View the full article here.

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