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which the public was cautioned to limit the intake of cholesterol and saturated fats as a means of reducing the risk of heart disease.
Those guidelines were transmitted to children in school, to pregnant women, to middle-aged citizens in their high-risk heart disease years, and to senior citizens. Twenty committees, the Surgeon General, and two Cabinet-level departments endorsed this recommended policy which was consistent with the report on “Recommended Dietary Allowances” issued earlier this year by a committee of the Food and Nutrition Board.
In May the Food and Nutrition Board independently issued a report called "Toward Healthful Diets” in which the public was advised that there is no connection between heart disease and the consumption of cholesterol and saturated fats, which like all good food, “should be eaten and enjoyed."
These opposing views serve only to bewilder the public and reduce the credibility of all scientists concerned with problems of nutrition.
Dr. Philip Handler, President of the National Academy of Sciences, has recognized this problem. On June 6 of this year in the lead editorial in Science magazine, the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, he noted that:
The public image of science and scientists has been distorted by the participation of scientists in public policy formation. * * * The public acceptability of a given level of risk is a political, not a scientific, question. * * * The public may wonder why we do not already know that which appears vital to decisionbut science will retain its place in public esteem only if we steadfastly admit the magnitude of our uncertainties and then assert the need for further research. And we shall lose that place if we dissemble or if we argue as if all necessary information and understanding were in hand. Scientists best serve public policy by living within the ethics of science, not those of politics. If the scientific community will not unfrock the charlatans, the public will not discern the difference and science and the Nation will suffer.
We take Dr. Handler's words to heart. We want to be certain that his own National Academy of Sciences has been just as attentive to his prescription.
How did the Food and Nutrition Board proceed to develop this divisive report? Did it admit uncertainty or did it simply have some differences of interpretation with its scientific colleagues on other panels and committees and chose to join them in public debate ? Did it dissemble in its work, taking inconsistent approaches to the evidence on sodium and on fat intake? Did it omit to review certain studies that would undermine its conclusions! Did it misrepresent certain data ? Did it, in sum, operate more on the level of politics than of science? The temptation to do so is obvious.
We are not dealing here simply with a matter of scientific interpretation. We are concerned with major public policy. Nutrition guidelines are in essence suggestions about the risks inherent in following the dietary course rather than another. It is a matter of how best to guide 220 million people, not a matter of hairsplitting over preliminary results from the scientific laboratory.
Today and tomorrow we sought to call a representative group of scientists, public and private, who are concerned with the issues of dietary consumption of fat and cholesterol to explore these questions together with the authors of the report. We want all of the evidence exposed on the hearing record so that the public can more fairly decide what it ought to do.
There are other questions that demand answers about the process behind the development of the report as well as about its substance. We are all aware that the National Academy of Sciences, of which the Food and Nutrition Board is a part, was established by President Lincoln in 1863 because of the growth of scientific research and information had become essential to the making of public policy.
The Academy was intended to advise the Congress on matters of scientific inquiry and results so that public policies could be shaped in the most knowledgeable way. The Academy was not created to make 'public policy nor to present itself formally as an arbiter in debates over public policy. No individual is constrained by that mandate but the Academy as a whole, and its committees and boards, are expected to adhere to that mandate as constituent bodies.
So, we are here also to find out how and why the Food and Nutrition Board decided to step over the fine line between giving advice to policymakers and offering its own policy directly to the public under the protective cloak of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences.
How does the Academy select its panels? Does it seek some balance in the background and training of members? Does it purposefully exclude some disciplines? How does the panel proceed? What materials does it analyze and what not? How does it develop its recommendationsby majority deliberation or by a one-person authored report commented upon by the rest? Does it permit, encourage, or dissuade dissent? Does it circulate its work more broadly in the scientific community before releasing it publicly?
These questions relate to the underlying problem of the public accountability of a 90-percent publicly funded institution that operates in darkness like a private corporation in pronouncing public policy. We have to address this issue.
In short, we have convened these public hearings on nutrition policy so that we may find a way to clear up the confusing mess foisted onto. American consumers by two sets of policies drawn from the same information that are leading our citizens down contradictory paths in their desires for proper nutrition and healthy long lives and, at the same time, to inquire into the practice of scientific policymaking, its openness, its fairness, and its public accountability.
Mr. Panetta, would you like to make a statement?
Excuse me, we have a short vote on the floor. We will adjourn for just a few minutes.
Mr. RICHMOND. I apologize for the delay, ladies and gentlemen. The ranking minority member of our House Agriculture Committee is with us today, Congressman Wampler. It is a pleasure to recognize him.
OPENING REMARKS OF HON. WILLIAM C. WAMPLER, A REPRE
SENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF VIRGINIA Mr. WAMPLER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. At the outset I want to commend you and the members of the subcommittee for holding these hearings. I think they are indeed timely.
I hope we can put a number of questions in proper perspective as the hearings develop.
Let me also say at the outset, Mr. Chairman, that as far as I am concerned the report of the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council is a report that is welcome. I think it is long overdue.
I have read it and reread it, and I find myself in substantial agreement with many of the conclusions that the committee reached.
I would like, if I may, Mr. Chairman, to read briefly from the introduction to the report. It says:
The Food and Nutrition Board is concerned about the flood of dietary recommendations currently being made to the American public in the hope that a variety of degenerative diseases may be prevented in some persons. These recommendations, which have come from various agencies in government, voluntary health groups, consumer advocates, and health food interests, often lack a firm scientific foundation and some are contradictory to one another.
In an effort to reduce the confusion in the mind of the public that has resulted from these many conflicting recommendations, the Board has prepared the following statement.
I think that is an accurate assessment of what the American consumer is faced with. What is particularly disturbing to me, Mr. Chairman, is the apparent effort on the part of some critics of this study to question the professional integrity of the chairman of the committee and perhaps one other member of the committee.
As far as I can recall, although I have never met Dr. Robert E. Olson, who is in the department of biochemistry of St. Louis University School of Medicine, or Dr. Alfred E. Harper of the department of biochemistry of the University of Wisconsin, I hope we have not reached that point in time in this country when we attempt to silence scientific dissent, because, if I understand the meaning of science, we want all points of view whether one agrees with them or not.
I think it is unfortunate that editorial writers, political cartoonists, and others have attempted to question the professional integrity of these two mentioned persons.
Again, Mr. Chairman, I commend you for holding these hearings. I will be anxious to hear what those testifying have to say, those who agree and disagree with this study, but it seems to me that there is about as much scientific evidence on one side of this controversy as there is on the other.
I think it clearly points up the need for additional research, hopefully a scientific dialog in which we can try to determine what the
As you well know, the dietary goals program that was developed by the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare has been controversial. I am not prepared to say whether they are wrong or right, but I have heard people I hold in very high esteem professionally question the dietary goals.
Apparently, what has been overlooked as much as anything, from what I have been able to read about the "Toward Healthful Diets" study, is that the main point of it is that a person should try to control his weight. This seems to be what so many of the editorial writers are overlooking
Again, I want to thank you for holding the hearings. I appreciate the opportunity to be here.
Mr. RICHMOND. Thank you, Mr. Wampler. Mr. Panetta?
OPENING REMARKS OF HON. LEON E. PANETTA, A REPRESENTA
TIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
Mr. PANETTA. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I have a brief comment.
There are obviously differences that exist in this area—that is, scientific differences, nutritional differences with regard to the question of cholesterol. I think the main problem we face today is the problem of confusion that has been created in the minds of the public one way or the other with regard to this issue.
My best guess is that even following these hearings consumers will be left with a basic approach to diet, which is that you watch your weight, that you have a balanced diet, and that you exercise, and that you exercise your best judgment along those lines.
The hearings will help explore the differences. I am not sure that we will have any final answers as a result of the hearings, but clearly in the end, it would seem to me, consumers are probably not going to change their habits based on reports that have been provided one way or the other at this point.
Mr. RICHMOND. Thank you, Mr. Panetta. Mrs. Heckler?
OPENING REMARKS OF HON. MARGARET M. HECKLER, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MASSACHUSETTS
Mrs. HECKLER. Mr. Chairman, I wish to commend you for holding these hearings. I think that the public controversy surrounding the issue of cholesterol has reached a point of incredulity in the minds of the American people. They have been told for so long to restrict unsaturated fats in their diets in order to avoid heart disease that to learn that this restriction or reduction is not necessary except in specific cases comes as quite earthshaking to them.
I personally feel that the purpose of the hearings is to determine on what basis the Food and Nutrition Board compiled its study and made its recommendations. It is one thing to encourage dissent and disagreement in any scientific inquiry. It is another to set a medical policy, suggest and recommend as an official policy statement to the United States and to the people of America, who are more than ever concerned with their health, that the traditional nutritional guidelines and nutritional advice given by the Surgeon General of the United States, by 20 international agencies, by the U.S. Department of Agriculture itself, by the Department of Health and Human Services—now must be discarded.
The contradiction is almost staggering. I think it is unfortunate because the purpose of the report, "Toward Healthful Diets," was to alleviate questions about diet and health and I think too little emphasis has been placed on nutrition.
To see this report arouse its own controversy is very disturbing. I think it is a matter which the public is going to follow with great puzzlement and with a cynicism that goes to the basic question: What is the Government doing?
On one hand, Federal Government reports suggest one course of action very adamantly, over a several year time period. On the other hand, suddenly we can discard what was accepted nutritional advice.
I do not know the source of the facts to support the theory or where the truth lies, but I think it is important to get to the bottom of it. I am personally very concerned with the contradictions and with the lack of credibility which the report seems to have gained in the public mind. I think it can set back sound nutritional practice and set back an emphasis on nutrition and open the door still further to those who would have no medical basis whatsoever, or scientific foundation, for their recommendations to the American people.
Mr. PANETTA (acting chairman]. Thank you.
The bells that just rang are for a live, recorded quorum call. That was at 10:23 so there is some time left. Mr. Grassley?
OPENING REMARKS OF HON. CHARLES E. GRASSLEY, A REPRE
SENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF IOWA
Mr. GRASSLEY. I want to associate myself with the remarks that Congressman Wampler made. I also want to bring to the committee's attention that it is quite obvious that this hearing is a very early response to a report that some members of the committee disagree with.
I find no fault with the hearing being held. In fact, I am glad that it is being held. On the other hand, we do not generally respond to reports quite this quickly. This report was issued in the latter part of May, so this hearing is being held in a fashion that is not traditional for the committee.
I also want to point out the extent to which scientific evidence is being questioned. I cannot find fault with that approach of the committee, because naturally I feel that any evidence ought to be open to public criticism as well as public investigation. On the other hand, let me say that this committee did not move with this kind of speed when some of us on the Agriculture Committee questioned the Newburne Study on the nitrite issue. We have now been waiting since August 1978 for a final response on that.
The General Accounting Office has issued their reports but we have been waiting for a slide-by-slide review by USDA and FDA. They were supposed to be finished on the first of March and are still not done. I would like to see the same sort of rapidity with which this hearing is being held, held on that issue as well.
Mr. PANETTA. Thank you, Mr. Grassley. Mr. Brown, do you have a statement to make ?
Mr. BROWN. I do not have one.
OPENING REMARKS OF HON. HENRY A. WAXMAN, A REPRESENTA
TIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
Mr. WAXMAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate this opportunity to join with you and your subcommittee in examining current dietary guidelines with respect to cholesterol and its relationship to cardiovascular disease. As chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Health and the Environment, I am well aware of the tremendous public concern and confusion over the events occasioning today's pubsic hearing. Several
weeks ago, the Food and Nutrition Board—a division of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences published a startling