The 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has submitted its 845-page “Scientific Report” to the Secretaries of the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS). 

The next step in the processes is for the public to submit comments to the departments on the Scientific Report.

The lengthy report completes the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s work, which ran from March 12, 2019, through June 10, 2020.  The report provides the USDA and HHS Secretaries with advice as they formulate the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Two major themes are contained in the advisory committee’s submission. These are:

The importance of considering life stage in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans

  • These life stages include pregnancy, lactation, birth to age 24 months, childhood,  adolescence, and adulthood.
  • Special nutrition considerations exist at each life stage and improvements in recommended food patterns at each stage have the potential to influence healthy food choices at the next life stage.

Dietary patterns provide a framework for the Dietary Guidelines for Americans within and across life stages

  • Healthy dietary patterns are defined by the quality of foods that are included, as well as foods that should be limited.
  • A high-quality dietary pattern can promote health, achieve nutrient adequacy and energy balance, and reduce the risk of diet-related chronic diseases.
  • The evidence on specific dietary components such as beverages, seafood, added sugars, dietary fats, macronutrient profile, consistently supports the importance of foods consumed in healthy dietary patterns as a framework for the guidelines.

The sheer size of the document is a challenge even for those who are involved in the dietary guidelines process. “We’re combing through these final recommendations—all 845 pages of them!— with an eye towards Big Food and Big Soda’s influence,” said Lena Greenberg with  Boston-based Corporate Accountability, a non-governmental organization.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, which is also involved with the process that is expected to produce new Dietary Guidelines for Americans by the end of this year,  said a “major development” is that the advisory committee has considered the “context of the food environment and the overall food system,” including such topics as the sustainability of the food supply and food insecurity as experienced by many Americans.

“The advisory committee has recognized what a growing number of studies have found: that what we eat every day has profound consequences for the environment and our future food supply. The USDA and HHS need to take this seriously. If they don’t, the diet they recommend today will put a healthy diet further out of reach tomorrow,” said Sarah Reinhardt, the lead analyst for food systems and health at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

USDA and HHS will consider the Advisory Committee’s Scientific Report, along with public and agency comments, as the federal departments develop the next edition of the dietary guidelines.

To ensure the scientific foundation of the dietary guidelines, the emphasis is placed on comments with a scientific justification, not the number of comments for or against a topic or conclusion. The departments ensure that the dietary guidelines are based on the totality of the scientific evidence and not on individual studies or opinions. Public and agency comments also can help the dietary guidelines writers understand how terminology is interpreted by others and identify terms or points that require additional consideration to achieve plain language goals.

As part of this public comment period, on Aug. 11 the USDA and HHS are scheduled to have a public meeting to hear oral comments from the public on the Scientific Report. Registration to present oral comments will be announced on the attend a meeting page closer to the meeting date.

Comments can be provided electronically — preferred by the government — or through the postal mail.

All comments submitted to the Docket FNS-2020-0015 on are processed before posting. Please allow three business days for your comment to be posted. Please do not submit your comment more than once.

  • To submit an electronic comment visit the page on Instructions for submitting comments are available on that website. Do not include personally identifiable information, such as your phone number or street address, in the text of your comment.
  • Comments can be mailed to Kristin Koegel, USDA Food and Nutrition Service, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion; 1320 Braddock Place, Room 4094; Alexandria, VA 22314.

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