WASHINGTON — After two years of reviews that had raised fears among some nutritionists and consumer groups, the federal government Tuesday released revised recommendations for the American diet that are almost identical to those published in 1980.
The guidelines again call for reduced consumption of foods rich in fats, cholesterol, sugar and salt, urge moderation in drinking alcoholic beverages and emphasize the importance of exercise in weight control. When first issued by the Jimmy Carter Administration, they were attacked by the food industry.
'Not a Prescription'
"They are guidelines for the total diet . . . " Agriculture Secretary John R. Block said at a news conference Tuesday. "They are not rigid or quantitative; that is especially important. These guidelines are not a prescription. The guidelines suggest variety, balance and moderation in the diet and leave the specific food choices to the individual."
Consumer groups were pleasantly surprised by the recommendations, which they had expected would be weakened after a panel was appointed in 1982 to suggest changes in the guidelines.
In addition, Block, a former Illinois hog farmer, had told Congress during his confirmation hearings: "Hogs are just like people. You can provide protein and grain to a hog, and he will balance his ration. People are surely as smart as hogs . . . . I am not so sure that government needs to get so deeply into telling people what they should or should not eat."
But, in releasing the new guidelines, issued jointly by the Agriculture and Health and Human Services departments, Block said Tuesday: "Maybe all of us have changed in our thinking. It's an evolutionary process."
Michael Jacobson, director of the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest, said he believes that the Reagan Administration had targeted the guidelines "as something they wanted to get rid of" but that several members of the review panel fought vigorously during the deliberations to preserve them.
"This is our national nutrition policy--and it is quite a victory for people concerned with nutrition," Jacobson said.
Dr. Michael McGinnis, deputy assistant secretary for health, acknowledged that "there was a lot of debate" among members of the panel, five of whom had prior financial ties to the food industry.
"They came in with pre-existing opinions that were strongly held," he said. "But they came to an agreement. I think everybody is happy with the way it came out."
Variety of Foods Urged
The committee, headed by Bernard S. Schweigert, chairman of the food science and technology department at the University of California, Davis, issued virtually the same basic guidelines as the first series. They urged Americans to eat a variety of foods; maintain "desirable" weight; avoid too much fat, saturated fat and cholesterol; eat foods with adequate starch and fiber; avoid too much sugar, avoid too much sodium and drink alcoholic beverages in moderation.
To reduce fat, the recommendations suggested that Americans choose lean meat, fish, poultry and dry beans and peas as protein sources, use skim or low-fat milk and moderate, or limit, their use of egg yolks, organ meats, butter, cream and lard.
The guidelines recommended the consumption of more complex carbohydrates and fiber-rich foods in the form of whole-grain breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables.
"Every day, we learn more and more from scientific research about the relationship between dietary practices and health outcomes--about how we can reduce our risk for problems like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, osteoporosis and even certain forms of cancer through simple changes in the daily choices we make in the foods we eat," Health and Human Services Secretary Margaret M. Heckler said in a statement.