Almanac

Viewpoint - February 16, 2011

Letter: In McGovern's day, word 'meat' was off the table

The dietary guidelines recently released by the departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services are continuing a 30-year trend of recommending replacement of animal products and other fatty foods in our diet with vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. The recommendations reflect widespread concern with the epidemic of obesity and other precursors of killer diseases, particularly among our children.

In a National Public Radio interview, Walter Willett, a professor of public health at Harvard University, complained about the guidelines' lack of transparency in failing to call for an outright reduction in meat consumption. He should know.

In 1977, drawing on two years of hearings by the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs chaired by Sen. George McGovern, Mr. Willett authored the original "Dietary Goals for the United States." When the meat industry learned that the report's key recommendation was to reduce meat consumption, it forced Mr. McGovern to destroy all copies of the report and replace the word "meat" with "saturated fat." It then abolished the committee, voted McGovern out of office, and taught government bureaucrats never to challenge meat consumption again.

To this day, "saturated fats" remains a code word for meat, dairy, and eggs.

Malcolm Davidson, Encinal Avenue, Menlo Park

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