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NEWARK, DE -- Produce Marketing Association has urged the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee to maintain the high profile of fruit and vegetables as it works to revise the Dietary Guidelines for Americans for the 2010 edition.

In testimony provided to the committee Jan. 29, Kathy Means, PMA's vice president of government relations and public affairs, noted that Americans have a long way to go to reach even the current fruit and vegetable consumption guidelines.

"Fruits and vegetables are the power players in these recommendations," Ms. Means said in a Jan. 30 PMA press release. "They are key to making progress on so many other recommendations: reducing fat, salt and added sugars, increasing potassium intake. They are also critical weapons in the battle against obesity and many chronic diseases."

She stressed the importance of the guidelines, which offer consumer advice and also influence federal feeding programs as well as other government programs that offer dietary guidelines.

"The credibility of sound science and consistency of messages gives consumers confidence and reduces confusion," she said. "Simple, actionable messages are essential."

Ms. Means also urged the group to stress consumption of whole foods, specifying that whole fruits and vegetables, rather than food supplements, "offer health benefits from synergy of each unique combination of nutrients and phytonutrients that we know about and those that we have yet to discover."

She also stressed the importance of influencing children to eat more fruits and vegetables to encourage good eating habits that will last a lifetime, fight childhood obesity and reduce long-term health care costs for the future.

Addressing a new section on food safety that was added in the 2005 guidelines, Ms. Means encouraged the committee to coordinate any food safety messaging with the Partnership for Food Safety Education. The partnership offers a range of science-based, consumer-tested safe food handling information. In addition to overall safe food handling tips, the partnership also offers specific handling information for fresh produce, she testified.

Ms. Means' testimony can be viewed at www.pma.com/issues/consumption.cfm.

The dietary guidelines are jointly issued and updated every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. They provide authoritative advice for people two years and older about how good dietary habits can promote health and reduce risk for major chronic diseases.