Featured Articles

USDA Sued Over Dietary Guidelines for American’s Dairy Suggestions

Three Californian physicians, Seth Ammerman, MD, Donald Forrester, MD, and Heather Shenkman, MD, along with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nonprofit organization of 17,000 physicians, have filed a lawsuit against the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the amount of dairy recommended in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), published in December 2020.

The DGA recommends 3 cup equivalents of dairy a day for the Healthy U.S. Style Dietary Pattern. The DGA recommends a variety of sources, such as all fluid, dry, or evaporated milk, including lactose-free and lactose-reduced products and fortified soy beverages, buttermilk, yogurt, kefir, frozen yogurt, dairy desserts, and cheeses. Most choices should be fat-free or low-fat. The DGA also notes that cream, sour cream, and cream cheese are not included due to their low calcium content.

The accusers said the guidelines promote the interest of the meat and dairy industries while disregarding data showing the harm meat and dairy can cause, such as cancer and digestive issues. “One charter of the USDA, to market agricultural goods, including meat and dairy products, is in direct conflict with the National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act, which requires that the Dietary Guidelines ‘include nutritional and dietary information and guidelines for the general public’ based on ‘the preponderance of the scientific and medical knowledge which is current at the time the report is prepared,’” states Dr. Forrester, a family practice physician from Sacramento.

The lawsuit also emphasizes the fact that the DGA ignores those who are lactose intolerant, stating “Nor do the Dietary Guidelines address the fact that about one in four Americans is lactose intolerant, which is the inability to digest lactose, the primary carbohydrate in dairy.” On the contrary, the DGA states over 15 times that “lactose-free and lactose-reduced products” are appropriate dairy alternatives.

This is not the first lawsuit from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. The group has sued the USDA after the release of the past 2 DGAs, which are issued every five years, but the lawsuits have been dismissed. “The dietary guidelines are just that — guidelines. They provide guidance based on the best available science and research,” a USDA spokesman said. “Understanding that not all people consume dairy, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans clearly includes information about alternatives. … The dietary guidelines provide a helpful road map with many different routes to get to good health depending on one’s personal preferences.”

The physicians seek a court order requiring the USDA to retract portions of the 2020-2025 DGA, and reissue them with a focus on 3 changes:

  • Delete dairy promotions, since dairy products increase cancer risk, while nondairy calcium sources help prevent cancer.
  • Avoid equating “protein” with meat, as there are abundant sources of protein, such as beans, peas, and lentils, without meat’s fat and cholesterol.
  • Eliminate deceptive language hiding the ill effects of consuming meat and dairy products.

Check out these Animal Frontiers articles about milk, meat, and their importance in early life to review the science supporting the benefits for health.