Woohoo! Belgium’s new good guideline puts tofu, legumes, oils, vegetables, and grains at the top of the pyramid, as foods one should prioritize in their diet. But that’s not all: the new guidelines put bacon and salami in an outside circle that includes cakes, cookies, French fries, alcohol, and soda. The items in the outside circle should be eaten “as little as possible.” Partway down the pyramid is chicken, eggs, dairy, and fish, with red meat and butter all the way down at the bottom. Whoa!
The new food pyramid guidelines were published at the end of September by the Flemish Insitute of Health Life. The guideline reflects the 2015 World Health Organization’s statement that processed meat is now classified as a carcinogen.
The World Health Organization’s study noted that processed meats like bacon, ham, salami, sausage and beef jerky are a class I carcinogens, they highest risk assigned and cause cancer with sufficient data to make a firm conclusion. The relationship was strongest with colorectal and stomach cancer.
In no surprise, here in the U.S., the meat industry lobbied heavily to stop the government from advising people to eat less meat in our most recent Dietary Guidelines. Unfortunately, they were successful but the meat industry doesn’t seem to scare Belgian policymakers with their new proposed food guidelines. “We want to make it clear that we don’t need these products,” a representative of the institute told Flanders Today, “We don’t forbid them, but they should be rather an exception than rule.”
Belgium isn’t the first country to suggest limiting meat consumption. The UK government recommends citizens consume less dairy, the Netherlands released a set of dietary guidelines that recommend limits on meat due to sustainability concerns. The Chinese government also released a new set of dietary guidelines that have the potential to see the country’s consumption of meat drop by 50 percent.
Belgium’s new food guidelines reflect the waves of changes we have seen in the world as more people come to recognize the impact that their food choices have on their own health as well as animals and the environment.
Although the U.S. government has yet to take such proactive actions in encouraging people to consume less meat and dairy, you can start making a difference today. To learn more about the environmental impact of our food choices as well as trends and developments in the plant-based food space, check out our podcast #EatForThePlanet with Nil Zacharias.
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