In a joint announcement on Oct. 6, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said that conversations about sustainability will be left out of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs).

“In terms of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs), we will remain within the scope of our mandate in the 1990 National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act (NNMRRA), which is to provide “nutritional and dietary information and guidelines”… “based on the preponderance of the scientific and medical knowledge.”  The final 2015 Guidelines are still being drafted, but because this is a matter of scope, we do not believe that the 2015 DGAs are the appropriate vehicle for this important policy conversation about sustainability,” stated Vilsack and Burwell.

This announcement comes with less than three months to the DGAs being finalized. Early on in discussions held by the DGAs Committee, the topic of including sustainability in the structuring of the guidelines was brought to the table, concerning many industry groups.

“There has been some discussion this year about whether we would include the goal of sustainability as a factor in developing dietary guidelines. (Sustainability in this context means evaluating the environmental impact of a food source. Some of the things we eat, for example, require more resources to raise than others.) Issues of the environment and sustainability are critically important and they are addressed in a number of initiatives within the Administration. USDA, for instance, invests billions of dollars each year across all 50 states in sustainable food production, sustainable and renewable energy, sustainable water systems, preserving and protecting our natural resources and lands, and research into sustainable practices. And we are committed to continuing this investment,” Vilsack and Burwell continued.

The guidelines will play a major role in forming nutritional policy, education of consumers and health professionals.

“The scope of these nutritional recommendations affects the lives of all Americans – often in ways they may not even recognize. Under the Health and Human Services Department, the Food and Drug Administration considers aspects of the dietary guidelines for food and labeling initiatives,” said Mike Conaway, chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, in an opinion piece for U.S. News. “Likewise, the Food and Nutrition Service within the Department of Agriculture uses the guidelines to adjust food benefits for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (commonly known as food stamps) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. Other agencies that utilize the information include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, the Food Safety and Inspection Service, the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion and more.”