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New Dietary Guidelines urge Americans to eat more produce

WASHINGTON " Consumers will need to nearly double their daily consumption of fruits and vegetables to meet the new Dietary Guidelines, which in turn will form the blueprint for a host of federal agriculture policies and the yet-to-be-released revised food pyramid.

The federal government released the 2005 Dietary Guidelines at a Jan. 12 press conference, recommending that consumers eat five to 13 servings of fruits and vegetables each day, depending on their calorie level. The latest guidelines, issued jointly by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Health & Human Services, are intended to provide consumers with science-based dietary advice for good health.

The produce industry welcomed the news that an earlier panel?s recommendation to push for more fruit and vegetable consumption survived in the final document. The Produce for Better Health Foundation, which played a critical role in the final change, said that the scientific experts were swayed by the role fruits and vegetables play in helping Americans lose weight, and the critical shortfall of potassium, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C and magnesium in America?s diet.

?The new guidelines reflect the latest scientific evidence that, whether your motivation is to look good in a bathing suit this summer or to avoid cancer and heart disease in your old age, everything points to fruits and vegetables," said PBH President Elizabeth Pivonka.

?The new guidelines clearly demonstrate that there is a massive "good health gap? in today?s American diet," said Tom Stenzel, president of the United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association. "With fruit and vegetable consumption still [averaging] less than five servings a day, the most authoritative and scientifically credible government dietary standards ever published recommend that consumers need to almost double their consumption to meet national health standards for a healthy diet."

But the produce industry is also concerned that the government will not do enough to publicize these sweeping new dietary recommendations. Although USDA and HHS pledged to publicize the findings, particularly in light of the increasing media attention on the obesity problem, the produce industry is planning to hold "their feet to the fire," said Mr. Stenzel.

Advocates for the fruit and vegetable industry are expected to wave the report on Capitol Hill in the fight for new agricultural research, changes to food stamp and school lunch programs, and higher visibility in the next farm bill.

?That change is simply not going to happen by publishing one more booklet with consumer advice," said Mr. Stenzel.

He said that the federal government must break the barriers blocking Americans from eating more fruits and vegetables and decide how to encourage dietary changes.

The guidelines form the cornerstone of federal nutrition policy and nutrition education activities, so it will shape existing policies for years to come, agreed Dr. Pivonka.

For example, federal fruit and vegetable programs such as the National Cancer Institute?s/Centers for Disease Control & Prevention?s 5 A Day program and its state counterparts, and the USDA Fruit & Vegetable Snack Program should receive greater support, she said. Fruits and vegetables should receive greater prominence in federal programs including the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants & Children, the Food Stamp program, USDA?s school lunch and breakfast programs, and related Team Nutrition activities.

?PBH and our nutrition policy allies will now begin proactively asserting the federal agencies and Congress to give fruits and vegetables the attention they so justly deserve," said Dr. Pivonka.

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