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  • Obama Official: ‘I Wish There Were Scientific Facts’ In Setting Nutrition Guidelines

    Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack admitted to House lawmakers that government nutritional guidelines are set by “well-informed opinion” rather than “scientific facts.”

    “This is really about well-informed opinion,” Vilsack told the House Committee on Agriculture Wednesday. “I wish there were scientific facts. But the reality is stuff changes, right? Stuff changes. The key here is taking a look at the preponderance, the greater weight of the evidence, and trying to make a judgement.”

    Ironically, Vilsack’s remarks came after he had just told the committee that federal nutritional guidelines were “based on the best available science,” according to The Washington Post. “It’s just that the science is sometimes unclear,” Vilsack remarked.

    Vilsack appeared before House lawmakers alongside Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell to defend federal nutrition guidelines.

    Lawmakers from both parties were questioning the Obama administration’s nutrition guidelines, expressing skepticism over how they portray things like salt, saturated fat and eggs. The Post reports that the “government’s long-standing guidance about nutritional basics such as fat, salt and cholesterol have been undermined by recent research.”

    With updated federal nutrition guidelines set for release later this year, lawmakers are worried uncertainty in the underlying science will undermine the integrity of federal agencies.

    “I want you to understand, from my constituents, most of them don’t believe this stuff anymore,” Rep. Collin Peterson, a Minnesota Democrat, said during the hearing. “They are just flat out ignoring this stuff, and so that’s why I say I wonder why we are doing this.”

    “Uncertainty in the process leads to concern about whether the [Dietary Guidelines] recommendations will maintain the scientific integrity necessary,” Rep. Mike Conaway, a Texas Republican, told Vilsack.

    Lawmakers also noted that federal nutrition guidelines could be considered a failure because of the country’s high obesity rates. But Burwell fought back, arguing that obesity would be much worse had the guidelines not been in place.

    “We are on the wrong trajectory, but would the trajectory have been worse?” Burwell said, acknowledging there was an obesity problem.

    Vilsack added how difficult it is to set guidelines when the science can be unclear. He noted that agencies only need to consider the “preponderance” of evidence when setting federal nutrition guidelines. The science doesn’t need to be “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

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