USDA’s New MyPlate Icon At Odds With Federal Subsidies for Meat, Dairy

Food subsidies chart

The new federal MyPlate food icon that recommends Americans fill half their plates with fruits and vegetables is completely at odds with federal agriculture subsidies that promote production of high-fat, high-calorie food products, doctors say. The nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) points out that more than 60 percent of agricultural subsidies for domestic food products in recent history have directly and indirectly supported meat and dairy production. Less than 1 percent have gone to fruits and vegetables.

Both the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s icon and its recently released dietary guidelines ask Americans to limit their intake of sweeteners and fat- and cholesterol-heavy products, including meat and dairy, and to eat more fruits and vegetables.

“The USDA’s new plate icon couldn’t be more at odds with federal food subsidies,” says PCRM staff nutritionist Kathryn Strong, M.S., R.D. “The plate icon advises Americans to limit high-fat products like meat and cheese, but the federal government is subsidizing these very products with billions of tax dollars and giving almost no support to fruits and vegetables. Congress has to reform the Farm Bill to support healthy diets.”

More than 60 percent of the deaths in the United States are caused by heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other diet-related diseases. Approximately 68 percent of Americans are overweight or obese. In 2008, the direct medical costs associated with obesity added up to $147 billion.

PCRM dietitians have developed a food guide, the Power Plate, which is a simple, colorful graphic depicting a plate divided into four food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. There are no confusing portion sizes and food hierarchies to follow; the Power Plate simply asks people to eat a variety of all four food groups each day.

Since the USDA’s first Food Pyramid was introduced nearly two decades ago, obesity and diabetes have become commonplace. About 27 percent of young adults are now too overweight to qualify for military service, and an estimated one in three children born in 2000 will develop diabetes.

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.

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