The Public Weighs In On Seminal Nutrition Science Report

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FoodMinds Unveils Analysis of Written Public Comments on a Controversial Federal Advisory Committee Report

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We are bringing this analysis forward to provide a fresh perspective on the public’s role in the development of national nutrition policy.

As U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell, Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack and the House Agriculture Committee prepare for an Oct. 7 hearing on the process for developing the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), FoodMinds LLC is sharing insights gleaned from the 28,643 written public comments recently submitted to the agencies.

The public comment period in the federal government’s multiyear effort to update the DGA provided an opportunity to react to the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. The Report generated a record number of comments – over 2000% more than were received in response to the 2010 Scientific Report. By law, the federal government updates the DGA every five years. The DGA is the cornerstone of federal nutrition policy and nutrition education activities in the U.S. and influences dietary guidance around the world.

To gain a full understanding of public sentiment around the report, FoodMinds undertook the formidable task of reading and analyzing the nearly 30,000 comments submitted to the government between Feb. 19 and May 8. Top findings include:

  • 80% of the comments were based on form letters and write-in campaigns advocating policy positions promoted by professional associations, environmental, science and consumer advocacy groups, and industry groups, among others. The top three sources were Friends of the Earth, Food Democracy Now and My Plate, My Planet. All three groups support the inclusion of sustainability themes in dietary guidelines.
  • Of the 32 topics tabulated in the analysis, the most popular topics among independent, non-form letters were sustainability, meat/processed meat consumption, plant-based diets and added sugars.
  • Less than 2% of the comments were from industry representatives or industry trade associations.
  • Nearly 80% of comments were contributed anonymously.

See accompanying infographic for more detail.

“We are bringing this analysis forward to provide a fresh perspective on the public’s role in the development of national nutrition policy,” said FoodMinds Co-Founder and Partner Susan Pitman, MA, RD. “Independent citizens, academic experts and food and nutrition stakeholders all weighed in on the Advisory Committee’s Scientific Report as part of the government’s process; however, this analysis shows the Report sparked controversy and mobilized interest groups to advocate on policy rather than on the science behind the recommendations.”

HHS and USDA are expected to jointly release the 2015 DGA later this year. For information on the process of updating the DGA, visit

With offices in Chicago, Washington, DC and San Francisco, FoodMinds provides strategic counsel and insights that help food industry, professional and trade associations, and commodity board clients navigate the rapidly-changing worlds of nutrition and public health. We are pleased to offer customized analyses of the public comment submissions to clients; please contact us for a quote.


Founded in 2006, Chicago-based FoodMinds, LLC ( is a food and nutrition communications and consulting company that is boldly transforming the way the world thinks about food, nutrition and health. We challenge the status quo to create breakthrough strategies, expertly navigating food and nutrition science, public affairs and communications to help our clients tell a better story. FoodMinds has nearly 40 employees, including 15 registered dietitians, and a global network of more than 30 nutrition affairs experts. The firm recently announced expanded capabilities in Issues & Crisis Navigation as well as growth in its international footprint.

The winner of the 2013 Holmes Report Boutique Agency of the Year and the 2012 Gold SABRE award in the public affairs category, FoodMinds is ranked in the top 10 U.S. independent food and beverage public relations firms by O’Dwyer’s. It was named a finalist for PRWeek’s 2015 Small Agency of the Year award and was cited by the 2014 Holmes World PR Report as one of the 10 fastest-growing U.S. PR companies. In partnership with more than 30 leading food, beverage and nutrition clients in the U.S. and around the world, FoodMinds is actively shaping a new food frontier where people are healthier and happier.

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Stacey Stevens
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