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Congress must act now

Sunday, June 5, 2011

To the Editor:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture just unveiled a new plate-shaped food guide icon that encourages Americans to fill half their plates with fruits and vegetables.

As a dietitian, I know this is a significant step forward and could help put a dent in our nation's chronic disease epidemics. But unfortunately, unhealthy federal agricultural subsidies still stand in the way.

The USDA's new plate icon and recently released dietary guidelines advise Americans to limit products like high-fat meat and cheese. But under the Farm Bill, now being debated in Congress, the government continues to subsidize these very products with billions of tax dollars and gives almost no support to fruits and vegetables.

While more than 60 percent of agricultural subsidies in recent history have directly and indirectly supported meat and dairy production, less than 1 percent has gone to fruits and vegetables.

We've known for years that diets high in fruits, vegetables and other plant foods can help prevent obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Just as the USDA has given the food guide icon a makeover, Congress must revamp farm policy to encourage the production and consumption of these healthful foods.

Sincerely,

Kathryn Strong, M.S., R.D.,

Staff Dietitian,

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine,

Washington, D.C.