Anger as new Eatwell Guide slashes dairy

By Jim Cornall contact

- Last updated on GMT

The new Eatwell Guide (left), which replaces the Eatwell Plate (right), reduces the recommended amount of dairy in the diet from 15% to 8%.
The new Eatwell Guide (left), which replaces the Eatwell Plate (right), reduces the recommended amount of dairy in the diet from 15% to 8%.

Related tags: Nutrition, Dairy uk

Public Health England’s (PHE) launch of the new Eatwell Guide, which promotes more fruit, vegetables and starchy carbohydrates, and almost halves the amount of dairy in the diet, has drawn ire from various industry sources.

The new guide shows the revised proportions of the food groups that PHE says meet official advice and nutrient requirements, with dairy now reduced to 8% of the recommended diet.

The Eatwell Guide replaces the Eatwell Plate, which was last updated in August 2014. The Eatwell Plate recommended 15% of the diet come from the dairy sector.

Dairy guidelines

The Eatwell Guide’s version of a healthy, balanced diet includes ‘having some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks), choosing lower fat and lower sugar options,’ ‘choosing unsaturated oils and spreads and consuming in small amounts’ and ‘drinking 6 to 8 cups or glasses of fluid a day.’

The guide’s drinks recommendations say adults should be aiming for six to eight glasses of fluids per day, ideally from water, lower fat milks, and unsweetened tea or coffee.

Sugary soft drinks removed

Sugary soft drinks have been removed, and foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar have been moved to the periphery of the guide, which PHE says reflects advice that they are not an essential part of a healthy and balanced diet.

PHE also advises limiting the consumption of sugar, for example from sugary drinks and confectionery.

Dairy avoids soft drinks sugar tax

The guide comes a day after the UK Budget announced a soft drinks industry levy, which is expected to be introduced in 2018, to pay for school sport.

The new soft drinks industry tax is targeted at producers and importers of soft drinks that contain added sugar. However, pure fruit juices and milk-based drinks will be exempt from the tax.

Dairy UK uses Budget to slam guide

Dr Judith Bryans, chief executive of Dairy UK said, “Dairy products remain a key part of the Eatwell Guide which is important for the nation’s diet, but the decision by Public Health England to reduce the dairy food group in the revised eatwell plate is both baffling and disappointing.”

She said dairy products should be front and center in dietary guidelines.

“Dairy products are used in 98% of homes around the UK and only yesterday the Chancellor in his Budget speech excluded dairy products from the sugar tax.”

3-a-day program

She also mentioned last week’s launch of the government’s All-Party Parliamentary group’s (APPG) report that called for a 3-a-day program for dairy​, and the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) report on carbohydrates and human health.

“It is genuinely disconcerting to see that the dairy food group being disadvantaged by a public health campaign,”​ Bryans said.

Bryans said that the dairy industry was not consulted in the guide, and had no opportunity to give scientific evidence or “help prevent serious flaws in the guidelines.”

APPG puzzled by guidelines

Heather Wheeler, who chaired the APPG that came up with the dairy proposal, also criticized the new guide.

“We are sorely disappointed by Public Health England’s decision to reduce the dairy food group in the new Eatwell guide," ​Wheeler said.

She added that the APPG report was based on "robust evidence provided by nutrition and health experts."

"It is therefore both puzzling and frustrating to see that official dietary guidelines would not rely on it.  The new Eatwell guide is at odds with our recommendations and we plan on discussing this further with the Department of Health and Public Health England,”​ Wheeler said.

Bryans said Dairy UK would also be requesting all documents behind the decision.  

Arla weighs in

Arla Foods has also criticized the guide.

A spokesperson told DairyReporter that, “Arla Foods is surprised and disappointed to see the Government’s new Eatwell guidance, with a reduction in the suggested amount of dairy that should be consumed, and are seeking an urgent meeting to clarify what, if any, scientific and nutritional data this new guidance has been based upon." 

“Dairy, and milk in particular, is proven to be a unique food and source of nutrition at all life stages, and for specific groups of the population including children and pregnant women. In fact, there are more vitamins and minerals in milk than almost any other food source." 

The statement added that Arla was perplexed as to why the new guidance to consumers states that they should lessen their intake.

“While it is absolutely important that public guidelines are regularly reviewed to meet the changing needs of our population, it is also vital that messages to consumers about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods are clear. There is a very real risk that, as part of a wider dialogue about this new guidance, the value of dairy and the natural, nutritional benefit of milk is forgotten by those who need it most.  For example, 19% of teenage girls have very low intake of calcium and 22% have very low intake of vitamin B2. Against this backdrop of poor nutrition, we believe that the latest guidance could be misleading, confusing, and will potentially exacerbate an already critical situation,” ​the Arla statement concluded. 

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