IDFA Comments on Dietary Guidelines Report, Encourages USDA and HHS Not to Ignore Science on ‘Positive Health Impact of Milkfat’

WASHINGTON — Joseph Scimeca, Ph.D., senior vice president for regulatory and scientific affairs with the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) in Washington, D.C., gave video comments today to the Departments of Health & Human Services (HHS) and Agriculture (USDA) on the Scientific Report of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. This is the first opportunity to comment in person to the Departments since the 2020 DGAC submitted its final report in July. In the three minutes allotted to him, Dr. Scimeca delivered these comments to HHS and USDA, which you can view via video at the end of this release.

Joseph Scimeca, Ph.D.: Good morning. I am Dr. Joseph Scimeca, Senior Vice President of Regulatory and Scientific Affairs with the International Dairy Foods Association in Washington, D.C. IDFA is a membership organization that represents dairy cooperatives, processors, retailers, and suppliers who process 90% of the nation’s milk into nutritious products such as infant formula, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, and dairy ingredients.

Good nutrition is the foundation of health and wellness for adults and children alike, and dairy is a crucial part of a healthy diet beginning at a very young age. There is no equal replacement for dairy, which contains essential nutrients such as protein, calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. Milk is a key component of diets associated with improved bone health and lower risk for cardiovascular disease and obesity.

IDFA was pleased to see the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report affirm the unmatched health and nutritional benefits that dairy products provide to people of all ages. However, as the Committee pointed out, dairy is still under-consumed by nearly all Americans, meaning that people are missing out on the important nutrition that dairy provides.

Recommendations in the 2020-2025 DGAs will help Americans make more informed food and beverage choices that increase their consumption of dairy and improve nutrition.

We urge the Departments to include some of the Committee key findings on dairy in the final DGAs.

First, the Committee confirmed dairy products as an independent food group due to their unique combination of core nutrients. The data analysis conducted by the Committee confirmed that dairy is among the top sources of calcium, vitamin D and potassium.

Second, the Committee confirmed Americans aged 9 and older should consume three servings of dairy per day as part of both the Healthy US-style and Healthy Vegetarian eating patterns.

Third, the Committee identified a diet including low-fat and fat-free dairy—alongside legumes, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables—as the ideal, healthy dietary pattern for all ages, associated with positive health outcomes.

Finally, we commend the Committee for making recommendations for infants and toddlers. The Committee report held that as infants begin to eat complementary foods in addition to formula or breastmilk, it is important that dairy foods, such as yogurt and cheeses, be among those first foods introduced to infants between 6 and 12 months of age.

Disappointingly, the Committee did not consider nor include reference to many important studies regarding the consumption of dairy products at various levels of milkfat content. This is curious considering the DGAC report indicated there is an important and growing body of evidence on the favorable cardio-vascular disease outcomes related to specific types of fatty acids, food matrices and specific sources of fat. This is an important area that should have been considered by the Committee since there is growing evidence to support a positive health impact of milkfat that is different from other saturated fats.

Although we included reference to these studies in our original written comments, we are once again highlighting the growing body of evidence supporting the health value of dairy fat, including the appropriate scientific references with our written comments to be submitted by Thurs, Aug 13.

We appreciate the opportunity to provide these oral comments.  Thank you.

[Hear Dr. Scimeca’s comments by clicking here.]