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Groups Question Federal Guidelines on Food

“The protein drives me crazy,” Nestle said, referring to an element of the “my plate” graphic. “It’s nutritionally incorrect because grains have protein and dairy has protein.”

Activist eaters are also joining the fray.

The Healthy Nation Coalition, a fledgling organization made up of dietitians, nutrition doctorates and “Paleolithic eaters” — who shun modern industrial foods — is working to extract the process from the department entirely.

Adele Hite, the group’s policy director, filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the names of the review board members. She has not heard back.

“They all come back to this idea that people need access to healthy, affordable food, but they use a definition of healthy that is based on a political process,” Hite said. “If there is no outside influence, if there are no shenanigans, if this is exactly clear and above board, then why is it such a big secret?”

Robert Post, the deputy director of the Agriculture Department’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, said the panel is made up of nutrition and health educators and often includes former advisory committee members, but he declined to reveal the names of the board members. He refuted the notion that the process was subject to outside influence and pointed to the department’s new online library of research as an example of increased transparency.

“We don’t have a need to hand out their names,” he said. “Their’s is not an influential process.”

But a 2004 memo from the Office of Management and Budget on peer review policy said that “in general, an agency conducting a peer review of a highly influential scientific assessment must ensure that the peer review process is transparent by making available to the public the written charge to the peer reviewers, the peer reviewers’ names, the peer reviewers’ report(s), and the agency’s response to the peer reviewers’ report(s).”

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