National Consumers League

Consumer groups, food industry jointly call on USDA/HHS to emphasize portion control in next Dietary Guidelines

February 6, 2019

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC--Three national consumer advocacy organizations and six leading food industry trade associations joined together to call on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to emphasize portion control in the development of the official 2020-2015 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

“One promising, and we think underutilized, strategy for tackling the obesity epidemic is helping consumers understand and implement appropriate portion control,” wrote the National Consumers League, the Consumer Federation of America, and Consumer Action. The consumer groups’ letter to USDA and HHS was cosigned by The Grocery Manufacturers of America, the Sustainable Food Policy Alliance (SFPA), the American Beverage Association, the Sugar Association, the National Confectioners Association, and the American Frozen Food Institute.

A copy of the letter can be accessed here.

The consumer groups and trade associations reminded the government that, “The current version of the Dietary Guidelines merely discusses portion size as an afterthought in strategies to improve diets and fight obesity, with the concept not even mentioned in the guidelines’ executive summary.”

Despite an array of consumer education efforts, including mandatory nutrition labeling on food packages and, more recently, on restaurant menus, obesity is still a dire problem. More than two out of three Americans remain overweight or obese, despite such efforts.

The consumer and industry groups noted that, “Larger portion sizes clearly contribute to increases in the rates of overweight and obesity . . . [we] therefore urge the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, once they are appointed and convened, to focus on portion control as a key strategy to address the rise of obesity and related dietary diseases.”

The National Confectioners Association has launched the Always A Treat Initiative. A central aspect of this voluntary industry effort is providing consumers with more choices in smaller portion sized packages. The founding members of the SFPA have taken similar steps.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association has long supported the need for portion recommendations when developing achievable and practical dietary guidance.

The American Beverage Association has committed to offering a wider variety of smaller portion sizes. Members of the American Frozen Food Institute offer a large variety of portion-controlled meal options, and the Sugar Association has publicized that sugar is best enjoyed in moderation.

The consumer advocacy groups and trade associations concluded, “These programs represent cost-effective measures to combatting obesity, but this is only a start. . . . [We] look forward to participating in the deliberations that will lead to the new Dietary Guidelines."

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The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.