Grain-based foods will find genuine cause for cheer in the 600-plus-page Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 issued last week. That the committee is still recommending six servings of grains per day is good news that was not taken for granted. Many details of the report need to be studied closely in the days ahead.
One failing, though, leaps from the pages of the document — the authors’ use of the term “refined grains” to describe white flour. U.S. Department of Agriculture officials have boasted that the science behind this year’s report is the strongest ever. But despite urgings from the industry to use the term enriched grains or enriched/fortified grains for white flour, the Department persists in using a pejorative term with no scientific basis.
Dictionary definitions of the term refine could apply as accurately to whole wheat flour as to enriched flour. Referring to enriched flour as refined grains plays into the hands of those claiming white flour is a product denuded of micronutrients. In reality, enriched grains are the most important source of micronutrients in the American diet, a scientifically sound point that is anything but universally understood.
In the final meeting of the Dietary Guideline Advisory Committee, one member reminded his colleagues of their responsibility to dispel widely held, unhelpful myths about foods. In submitting comments on the report, grain-based foods should implore the committee to drop the use of a term that perpetuates as terrible a food myth as any.