Welcome to the Federal Update! I will be keeping you informed of recent activities in our Nation’s capitol pertaining to food, nutrition, farming and the healing arts.
On July 25, the House Government Reform Committee, chaired by the Hon. Dan Burton (R-IN), held an all-day hearing on Diet, Physical Activity, and Dietary Supplement–the Scientific Basis for Improving Health, Saving Money, and Preserving Personal Choice.” Rep. Burton is also the cofounder of the Congressional Caucus on Compliementary and Alternative Medicine and Natural Foods along with Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Sen. Orin Hatch (R-UT). The emphasis of the panel was on the rising incidence of obesity in America and the resultant health dangers.
During his opening remarks, Chairman Burton made the following revealing observation: Unfortunately, the typical medical school student will spend less time in classes learning about nutrition than we will spend in our hearing today. If doctors have no training in nutrition, much less dietary supplements, how are they supposed to advise their patients?”
Ironically, although Burton is strongly supportive of alternative health care practices, he endorses the erroneous concepts of Dean Ornish, who recommends a lowfat, plant-based diet.
Most of the other panelists held similar views. Dr. David Herber of UCLA’s School of Medicine advocated the judicious use of fruits and vegetables, saying that they provide some 25,000 different phytochemicals which can help prevent our most common diseases of aging. Dr. William Dietz of the Centers for Disease Control bemoaned the health dangers of convenience foods and called for sophisticated marketing messages designed to increase health behaviors among the youth, reduce television viewing in children and adolescents, increase physical activity for the population and promote breast feeding and efforts to increase its duration.” Dr. Larry Kushi, son of Michio and Aveline Kushi who popularized the macrobiotic way of life, stated that his research supports the notion that decreasing total fat intake as a matter of public health policy has probably been misguided. . . . Instead the quality and types of fat, and more importantly, the quality and types of foods we select, are important.” Unfortunately, he did not mention the vital role played by animal fats in providing good health for children and adults.
The star participant was actress Diane Ladd, a certified nutrition counselor. Her remarks centered on the quality of our soils and the importance of returning nutrients to our food through the right kind of farming. She also was critical of the high levels of additives in our food.
We definitely have our educational work cut out for us as we participate in future sessions of the committee. All of the panelists had good things to say, but none recognized the role of healthy animal products in human diets. No comment was made on the fact that rates of obesity have risen as we have cut back on fats and eaten more carbohydrate foods.
Along with participation in the various activities arranged by Senator Burton and his staff, we are looking forward to testifying on the Women, Infant and Children’s (WIC) program. WIC will be subject to extensive reexamination by the US Congress in 2003 as it undergoes its reauthorization of the Child’s Nutrition Act. The WIC program, administered by the US. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, provides free infant formula for low-income mothers and much of the formula they provide–especially to African Americans who are supposedly lactose intolerant”–is soy-based. Hearings on the WIC program and infant formulas will be held next year. The Weston A. Price Foundation will be there to present testimony on the dangers of soy infant formula.
Effective lobbying requires patience and persistence. Sally Fallon and I meet with congressional staffers two or three times per month when Congress is in session. During these meetings, we present staffers with position papers on soy infant formula as well as background information on the Foundation. It takes time to become known and for our message to be heard–especially as this message is so different from the nutritional advice promulgated by the USDA and FDA. Every staffer with whom we meet then is put on the mailing list to receive Wise Traditions.
We also meet with like-minded groups in the Washington area. Recently we had a productive meeting with Jay Feldman, Executive Director of the National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides. This type of networking is very important for organizations who wish to gain respect in the Washington scene.