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Food Pyramid to be replaced as government announces key nutrition education tool

by Joan Murphy | June 01, 2011

(UPDATED) WASHINGTON -- Produce companies were anxiously awaiting the Obama administration’s June 2 rollout of a new nutrition tool that will replace the much-criticized MyPyramid image as the government’s primary food group symbol.

The administration was planning to abandon the Food Pyramid in favor of a dinner plate to educate consumers on the latest update of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The produce industry has been pushing for a dinner plate as the most easy-to-understand nutrition-education tool, and industry was lobbying for that plate to be half-filled with fruits and vegetables for Americans to meet daily dietary recommendations. The dinner plate also would include the recommended amounts of protein, grains and dairy products.

First lady Michelle Obama, an outspoken advocate of the Let’s Move! initiative, was to join Tom Vilsack, secretary of agriculture, at a morning press conference to unveil the new icon, which will also include a new web site and other new communication initiatives.

The administration also plans to roll out six new nutrition messages at different times, and Lorelei DiSogra, vice president of nutrition for the United Fresh Produce Association.

“This is a very compelling and very effective message” to consumers, especially since it will be accompanied by a strong graphic, she said. "All of us are thrilled," she added.

Ms. DiSogra, who has been advocating for the plate graphic for six years, said that the produce industry “needs to blow the message out of the water” with its own public relations and marketing plans to accompany the government message.

“They will give it birth, but we’ve got to give it real life,” she said.

But the battle has not been easy, as produce advocates have had to wrestle with other segments of the food industry for a positive health message.

“Our industry takes for granted the government has positive things to say” about produce, she said.

Other nutrition messages that the USDA plans to roll out will encourage Americans to eat less, to drink more water instead of sugary beverages, and switch to low-fat dairy foods.