Prepared Statement for the USDA public meeting to assess the National Nutritional Summit of 1969, held on December 9, 1999.
I want to address the topic of food fats and oils and their impact on health, because fat represents an important nutrient that was negatively impacted by the forerunner to the planned National Nutrition Summit, namely, the 1969 White House Conference on Foods and Nutrition and the resulting McGovern Committee hearings in the 1970s, which produced the Dietary Goals. These Dietary Goals and later Guidelines have been largely responsible for promoting an unbalanced intake of the fat components of our diets. Natural fats such as butter, tallow, lard, and palm and coconut oils have been relegated to the garbage heap, and the man-made fats such as the widely-used, partially hydrogenated shortenings and margarines, and excessive polyunsaturated oils, have been promoted as if they were magic medicine. That is just the opposite of what we should be doing because those natural fats and oils have components found only in them, which are health-promoting, and their replacements are now known to be disease-causing.
The 1969 White House Conference produced the New Foods Document, which promoted the acceptance of imitation foods as if they were real foods. This has led to a major decline in the quality of our foods and especially in the quality of food fats. It has led to the open promotion of genetically-modified foods that suit the production of processed fats, and has also led to a decline in quality and uses of our farm-produced fats.
Now, 30 years later, there may be an opportunity to correct some of the mistakes. It is necessary, however, for those who will be in charge of the forthcoming Summit to make an effort to become properly educated as to the changes in the diet that occurred during the intervening 30 years, which have resulted in the situation we have today. We are confronted with the problems of widespread obesity, runaway diabetes in adults, ever-increasing cancer incidence rates, immune dysfunction, a continuing increase in heart disease rates, and growth and development problems in our young.
In 1970, the FDA prepared an internal memo that said the trans fatty acids in the food supply should be identified. Thirty years later the FDA has proposed the cloudy labeling of the trans fats under an unsuitable saturated fats umbrella. In the intervening 30 years in my former position as a fats, oils, and lipids researcher in a university lipids laboratory, I have frequently pointed out to various agencies, through reports to the appropriate dockets, that ignoring the levels of trans fatty acids in foods has prevented us from having accurate data on fat composition of our diets. As a result of being misled, we have a consuming public terrified of natural fats and oils–a public, which, by its avoidance of these natural fats and oils, and consumption of fabricated, man-manipulated fat and oil replacements, such as the trans fats and the unstable polyunsaturates, is becoming increasingly obese and ill.
This attempt by the FDA to tar the wholesome saturated fats with the sins of the trans fats so as to promote in the minds of the consumers the idea that they are both the same, is not supported by real science. Biologically, the saturates and the trans have totally opposite effects; the effects of the saturates are good and those of the trans are undesirable.
By considering a proposal which would put trans fats and saturated fats together on nutrition labels, the FDA is simply responding favorably to a petition by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which is a transparent and ingenious effort by the CSPI and its mostly vegetarian nutritionist staff to malign the dairy and meat industries by having consumers incorrectly associate animal products with trans fat.
Many of you at this meeting may not have been born by 1969. Those of us who were adults at that time know the extent to which the “new foods” really are imitation foods even though they are not labeled as such.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Spring 2000.