A “Twofer” or a Mistake?

A little while ago the government issued its updated food consumption guidelines for 2015. This caused quite a stir because it changed some longstanding recommendations. Some oversimplifications appeared in the popular media. Perhaps you read them in the normally reliable NY Times? For example, butter is not so bad after all and neither is saturated fat, whole milk is fine, eggs are a great food, and so on. I’ll bet many readers heaved a sigh of relief and restored these delicious items into their diet.

Unfortunately, these reports partially misread the guidelines. But more importantly, no one seemed to have noticed another critical change. The guidelines, which have always been solely based on protecting consumer health, added a second basis with equal weight. This is to protect the environment!

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I don’t know who thought this twofer was a good idea, but they retreated rapidly when angry consumer groups came after them with pitchforks and burning oil. The environment will henceforth have to stand on its own merits. I believe they are currently revising the guidelines for 2016, so we shall see if this makes a difference.

This is speculation, but I can conjure one case in point. Apart from mercury and other contaminants, fish are generally a very healthy food source. Consumption of fish has always been promoted in the guidelines. However most popular food fish stocks are in sharp decline, and it would be best to limit the take to let them recover. Thus we have competing goals. Should we eat a less healthy diet to aid this environmental goal? I think there is a better way, like enhancing fish farming and reducing current waste in the catch methods. In other words, let’s not hold our health hostage to desirable environmental goals. Rather attack the real problem head on. That’s just my take, of course.

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