WASHINGTON —  The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Feb. 26 announced a new step in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (D.G.A.) development process. For the first time, the departments will seek public comments on the proposed priority topics and supporting scientific questions that will guide the development of the upcoming 2020-2025 edition of the D.G.A. The public may submit comments through the Federal Register; the comment period will be open from Feb. 28, 2018, to March 30, 2018. The topics, supporting scientific questions, and link to submit public comments will be available at DietaryGuidelines.gov.

This new public comment stage at the beginning of the D.G.A. development process was expected to help maintain the integrity of the process and ensure transparency in communicating the topics that meet the priorities of federal nutrition programs. The new approach should allow for more public participation during this multiyear development process, according to the U.S.D.A. and H.H.S.  It also should improve customer service by being more responsive to stakeholder recommendations and feedback, the agencies said.

“The American taxpayer is an essential customer — indeed, a shareholder,” said Brandon Lipps, acting deputy undersecretary for food, nutrition, and consumer services at the  U.S.D.A., the administrative lead for the 2020-2025 D.G.A. “We’re proud to be taking this important step forward toward greater transparency and ensuring that the American public’s voice is heard throughout this process.”

The U.S.D.A. and H.H.S. are proposing a life stage approach for this edition of the D.G.A., focusing on priority scientific questions from birth through older adulthood. The 2014 Farm Bill mandated that, starting with the 2020-2025 edition, the D.G.A. provides guidance for women who are pregnant, as well as infants and toddlers from birth to 24 months. In addition to a focus on life stages, the topics and supporting questions for public comment reflect a continued attention on patterns of what we eat and drink as a whole, on average and over time, not on individual foods or food groups.

“We know that good nutrition together with physical activity can help decrease Americans’ risk of developing serious health conditions across the life span,” said Don Wright, Ph.D., deputy assistant secretary for health at H.H.S. “The Dietary Guidelines for Americans help support healthy choices at home, school, work, and in the community. That’s why we are encouraging the public and stakeholders in nutrition to submit comments up front to help inform the next edition of the guidelines.”

The 2020-2025 D.G.A. topics that the U.S.D.A. and H.H.S. proposed are based on four criteria:

1.     Relevance — The topic is within the scope of the D.G.A. and its focus on food-based recommendations, not clinical guidelines for medical treatment.

2.     Importance — The topic has new, relevant data and represents an area of substantial public health concern, uncertainty, and/or knowledge gap.

3.     Potential federal impact — There is a probability that guidance on the topic would inform federal food and nutrition policies and programs.

4.     Avoiding duplication — The topic is not currently addressed through existing evidence-based federal guidance (other than the Dietary Guidelines).

The U.S.D.A. and H.H.S. will consider all public comments submitted in finalizing the list of topics and supporting questions to be examined in the development of the 2020-2025 D.G.A.

After finalizing the topics and supporting questions, the U.S.D.A. and H.H.S. will post a public call for the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee nominations. The areas of expertise needed will be based on the final topics and supporting scientific questions, resulting in a coordinated and efficient scientific review, the agencies said.