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WASHINGTON -- Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Secretary of Health & Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced Jan. 31 the release of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the federal government's evidence- based nutritional guidance to promote health, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and reduce the prevalence of overweight and obesity through improved nutrition and physical activity.

Because more than one-third of children and more than two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight or obese, the seventh edition of Dietary Guidelines for Americans places stronger emphasis on reducing calorie consumption and increasing physical activity.

"The 2010 Dietary Guidelines are being released at a time when the majority of adults and one in three children is overweight or obese and this is a crisis that we can no longer ignore," Secretary Vilsack said in a Jan. 31 press release. "These new and improved dietary recommendations give individuals the information to make thoughtful choices of healthier foods in the right portions and to complement those choices with physical activity. The bottom line is that most Americans need to trim our waistlines to reduce the risk of developing diet-related chronic disease. Improving our eating habits is not only good for every individual and family but also for our country."

The new duidelines focus on balancing calories with physical activity, and encourage Americans to consume more healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and seafood, and to consume less sodium, saturated and trans fats, added sugars and refined grains.

"Helping Americans incorporate these guidelines into their everyday lives is important to improving the overall health of the American people," Secretary Sebelius said in the release. "The new Dietary Guidelines provide concrete action steps to help people live healthier, more physically active and longer lives."

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans include 23 key recommendations for the general population and six additional key recommendations for specific population groups, such as women who are pregnant. Key recommendations are the most important messages within the guidelines in terms of their implications for improving public health. The recommendations are intended as an integrated set of advice to achieve an overall healthy eating pattern. To get the full benefit, all Americans should carry out the Dietary Guidelines recommendations in their entirety.

More consumer-friendly advice and tools, including a next-generation Food Pyramid, will be released by USDA and HHS in the coming months.

This edition of the Dietary Guidelines comes at a critical juncture for America's health and prosperity. By adopting the recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines, Americans can live healthier lives and contribute to a lowering of health-care costs, helping to strengthen America's long-term economic competitiveness and overall productivity, according to the release.

USDA and HHS have conducted this latest review of the scientific literature, and have developed and issued the seventh edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans in a joint effort that is mandated by Congress. The guidelines form the basis of nutrition education programs, federal nutrition assistance programs such as school meals programs and Meals on Wheels programs for seniors, and dietary advice provided by health professionals.

The Dietary Guidelines, based on the most sound scientific information, provide authoritative advice for people 2 years and older about how proper dietary habits can promote health and reduce risk for major chronic diseases.

The Dietary Guidelines aid policymakers in designing and implementing nutrition-related programs. They also provide education and health professionals, such as nutritionists, dietitians, and health educators with a compilation of the latest science-based recommendations. A table with key consumer behaviors and potential strategies for professionals to use in implementing the Dietary Guidelines is included in the appendix.

The Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association applauded the new guidelines for their emphasis on fruits and vegetables.

The association said in a separate press release that "eating more fruits and vegetables is a simple but important weapon in fighting the obesity epidemic in this country. Many chronic health problems that afflict Americans today stem from being overweight and not eating right: heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer and other diseases. Prevention through proper nutrition is far less costly than treatment after the onset of illness."

It continued, “Florida farmers supply much of the fresh vegetables and fruits that Americans enjoy. We lead the nation in production of oranges, grapefruit, tomatoes, sweet corn, snap beans, cucumbers, squash and watermelons. We're second in production of strawberries, bell peppers and tangerines. Florida’s grower community is proud to play a role in offering Americans a bountiful supply of healthful, nutritious produce.”

The Produce Marketing Association said in another press release, “As industry advocates for the nutritional benefits of our collective products, PMA's government relations and public affairs team took the message to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, offering comments and testifying before the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. With a strong emphasis on reducing caloric intake, fruits and vegetables are at the heart of these guidelines. We are especially pleased that the new guidelines call for consumers to make half their plates fruits and vegetables. This is an amazingly powerful image that gives consumers a concrete idea about what they should do.”

It continued, “We tirelessly advocate that increased produce consumption is a substantial solution to the obesity epidemic and other public health issues. Even with the dietary guidelines, there are still more communications, social science and policy improvements we can affect to make a significant impact on produce consumption.”

It went on, “In addition to our own government relations and public affairs efforts, we support the messaging of Fruits & Veggies -- More Matters as a private-public partnership through the Produce for Better Health Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. We've joined with the National Restaurant Association and International Foodservice Distributors Association to significantly increase fruit and vegetable use in restaurants by 2020. We're working with the National Fruit & Vegetable Alliance to increase salad bar use in schools. With childhood education expert Scholastic Inc., we have created a math curriculum that pushes fruit and vegetable consumption to third and fourth graders. And we offer a variety of tools to members, such as consumer attitude research and I Know Produce, because it's going to take all of us working on all fronts, including using these new Dietary Guidelines, to get consumption where it needs to be.”

The United Fresh Produce Association also cheered the new consumer message to “make half your plate fruits and vegetables.” The Dietary Guidelines have long recommended that Americans consume more healthy foods like fruits and vegetables, but the “make half your plate fruits and vegetables” message is the strongest and most compelling message to ever come out of Department of Agriculture and Department of Health & Human Services about fruits and vegetables, United said in a separate press release.

“Today’s announcement is a huge step toward encouraging healthier eating habits across the country, and we couldn’t be happier,” Lorelei DiSogra, United’s vice president of nutrition and health, who cited the “half a plate” strategy as a key tactic in testimony delivered to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee in 2009 and 2010, said in the release. “By making an overarching recommendation like 'half a plate,’ the 2010 DGA provides clearer guidance to Americans that no matter what their age or calorie intake requirement, everyone needs to strive to have fruits and vegetables make up half of what they eat at each meal. In late 2004, in preparation for the release of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines, the National Cancer Institute did scientific consumer research to demonstrate that the half-a-plate message was the most effective way to communicate the amount of fruits and vegetables American should eat. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines really put fruits and vegetables front and center as a critical step toward creating a healthier America.”

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines is available at www.dietaryguidelines.gov.