Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

John Block: 2015 Dietary Guidelines – Will They Be Credible?

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block

USDA and HHS are close to issuing the 2015 version of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The Guidelines, issued every five years, must be based on “the preponderance of the scientific and medical knowledge current at the time the report is issued.” That is a pretty high standard and properly requires sound science.

We will learn shortly whether the Obama Team is dedicated to sound science or simply motivated to follow the political whims and recommendations of its supporters.

The Advisory Committee report recommended a plank on sustainability, which is clearly outside the mandate and tradition of the Dietary Guidelines. Thankfully, it appears the Secretaries of USDA and HHS have taken sustainability off the table.

Another issue which may be a litmus test for the ultimate credibility of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines will be its commentary on caffeine. Caffeine has never been part of the Dietary Guidelines in the past. However, the Advisory Committee for the 2015 Dietary Guidelines made recommendations regarding caffeine consumption via energy drinks. Their recommendation is based on science that they, themselves, have graded as “limited.” The math and logic behind classification of energy drinks as high dose caffeine is just wrong. Well over 95% of energy drinks on the market contain between 80 and 160 mg per serving, the same as home brewed coffee (the coffee I drink every morning) and comparable to colas. Painting all energy drinks as “high dose caffeine” is simply not true and will encourage detractors to criticize the Dietary Guidelines as politically, not scientifically, driven.

If the Committee insists on their caffeine overreach, then what about marijuana? Help yourself to that marijuana brownie. They don’t say a word about the dangers of marijuana.

Many in Congress are seeking to limit the Dietary Guidelines to where there is only “strong” science. That strikes me as a good idea and is consistent with the law. The Administration seems to be rushing to issue the Guidelines without that restriction. In the end, I hope the Secretaries get it right and issue a sound and credible set of Guidelines for all Americans.

John Block was Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1981-1985, where he played a key role in the development of the 1985 Farm Bill.  If you would like to review his radio shows going back more than 20 years, visit

More From ,


Subscribe to receive OFW’s Food & Agriculture World Insights Newsletter.