What can americans learn from the new Dutch dietary guidelines?
Last month Voedingscentrum, the Netherlands’ state-funded nutrition watchdog, published a new set of positive national dietary guidelines. It is the first update to the country’s official food programme since 2004, which will be used by many Dutch health-care providers and nutritionists. They are very similar to dietary guidelines in most other countries, but with strict consumer restrictions on meat and animal products, the road to health is different.
They say the Dutch should cut back on two servings of meat a week, no more than 60 percent of red meat. In addition, red meat should not be processed. Other common animal-based proteins have also been reduced: no more than one fish, no more than three eggs, if possible, no cheese, which is good for nuts and beans.
This is the first time Voedingscentrum has tightened restrictions on meat consumption. The new recommendations are not just because they have a clear position on animal products, but because they involve environmental sustainability and health issues. That is, the meat guidelines are directly related to overfishing, inefficiency and high carbon emissions associated with red meat production.
The impact of meat on the environment is a particularly important issue for americans – not only because we account for 10 percent of agro-related greenhouse gas emissions, but also because of our recent (and failed) efforts to guide our diets. In the us, similar concerns but a lack of action could tempt some to turn to Dutch guidelines as an alternative to the us. However, nutritionists claim that while these guidelines point to the right world, their details may not be universally applicable. But they can help us reassess how we view sustainability in our food supply chain.
The nutritionists behind America’s own new guidelines, released three months ago, are actually working to include sustainability in the new document. Members of the dietary guidelines advisory committee made a clear statement on the matter in a 2015 report to the final authors of the report. But government officials have refused to include them. Congress initiated a review of the new directive, and when the panel released it believed the document should be purely about health. This hostility ignores the fact that sustainability did get a one-time mention in 2010, when previous reports on food security were another overlapping issue of public health.
Not America’s ultimate guide is scary. Since the 1980s, they have focused on the basics (eating more vegetables and less junk food), but they are also digging into details. They reduced the amount of sugar recommended and generally recommended a diet like the Dutch standard. While they are angry at the various free-range meat health professionals, and possibly even cancer-causing substances, it is the first time to remember old concerns about egg and cholesterol consumption, to direct and supervise men and teenage boys, and to reduce their protein intake.
“In the United States, about 95 percent, ultimately rule out the best interests of the public,” said Ely nelson, who promotes appropriate nutrition experts at the university of New Hampshire, taking into account recent comments by the dietary guidelines advisory committee. “But some things don’t work.”
Mr. Nelson and others say the mild feeling is the result of a massive U.S meat industry lobbying against the health and environmental effects of eating meat. (apparently, they are positive about sustainability and have even started a change.org petition called “cancel my hot dog.”) They point out that even the limited precautions in the meat consumption guidelines are written in hedges, which seem to be an attempt by the authors to balance scientific and industrial pressures.
Contrary to U.S. guidelines, nelson praised the Dutch proposal as “the right goal” and worthy of praise. But Cornevan Dooren, an expert on sustainable food at Voedingscentrum, warns that while the Dutch have one thing in common in the dietary guidelines, some of it is aimed at the beautiful future of Dutch culture, especially shepherds. He noted that he had recently published an academic paper on cultural differences and the applicability of guidelines, with the following new directives:
“These results are relevant because adaptation to a diet history, better adaptation to current eating habits, climate and agricultural traditions (Netherlands), is easier to achieve than more foreign southern or northern European diets.”
In other words, according to nelson, food guidelines need to change cultural dietary norms gradually and aggressively, and respond to availability and other unique conditions. You can’t always move forward, and it’s not always wise to rely on another cultural norm.
But Dutch guidelines can still indirectly promote American norms. They are part of a growing number of sustainable national guidelines. In recent years, some countries have established these in their own documents. Mr Van doren thinks that some countries, such as Britain, have overtaken their own. Most of these countries dislike America’s restrictions on the meat industry, but in 2012 Brazil rejected the notion that a country with a large number of nomadic herders was forced to lobby the meat industry. Their proposals to help the environment, free trade and indigenous food culture set a strong precedent for American possibilities.
Ideally, the Dutch language in the guidelines, the precedents of Brazil and other countries will take similar steps in the next few years to create a perfect precedent for sustainable development to consider within five years the new dietary ideal in the United States. Nielsen believes the United States has strong supporters for this development. All they need is a good business case, a precedent and a quasi-functional regulatory system that actually takes it home.
“It’s a [only] matter of time,” until we align ourselves with the Netherlands and other sustainability guidelines. “It will happen.”