The UK dairy industry has responded angrily to new Government eating guidelines that virtually halve the recommended daily intake of dairy products.
Public Health England’s new Eatwell guidelines recommend dairy products should account for just 8 per cent of an individual’s daily food intake, compared with 15 per cent under the previous guidelines.
Dairy UK described the decision as ‘baffling and disappointing’ and claimed it went against prevailing scientific advice.
The Eatwell guidelines group foods into five main groups and, illustrated with the Eatwell plate, make recommendations for how much of each group to include in the diets and preferred options within those categories.
The latest guidelines make the following recommendations.
Explaining why dairy products had been downgraded a PHE spokesperson said: “Our independent expert body said you can get calcium from across the diet and not just from dairy products.
“We are currently meeting or exceeding calcium recommendations whereas we are still consuming too much saturated fat and salt.
“We did analysis and some modelling using our national diet nutrition survey and the result was the dairy segment decreased in size but it was all evidence based.”
Anne Mullen, director of nutrition at the Dairy Council issued an immediate response to PHE's comments.
She said: "Whole milk is low in sodium and is not high in fat; skimmed varieties are low in both."
Responding to the comments on calcium, she referred to data indicating that 1 in 5 teenage girls do not achieve calcium requirements as well as 'mild to moderate' iodine deficiency among school girls and pregnant women in the UK.
Dr Mullen said: "It would seem PHE do not quite understand the unique nutritional benefits of milk or their own micronutrient data from NDNS."
She also questioned PHE's modelling methods and evidence base. "Modelling like this is not 'evidence based'. It should be peer reviewed, publicly available and more transparent," she said.
Dairy UK chief executive Judith Bryans said: “In the UK, dietary guidelines disregard an ever-growing body of robust, science-based evidence which stresses the importance of dairy consumption at all ages.
“It is genuinely disconcerting to see that the dairy food group being disadvantaged by a public health campaign.
“At a time when obesity is a real crisis for children and adults alike, nutrient-dense whole foods such as dairy products should be put front and centre in dietary guidelines.
“Furthermore, dairy products are used in 98 per cent of homes around the UK and only yesterday the Chancellor in his Budget speech excluded dairy products from the sugar tax.”
Dr Bryans said PHE’s decision goes against a series of recent public announcements and reports which showed a better understanding of the role of milk and dairy products in a healthy and balanced diet.
These include the latest Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) report on carbohydrates and human health and the recent Dairy All-Party Parliamentary Group recommendations on dairy and public health
She cited countries including France, Canada, Australia which have had successful 3-a-Day dairy consumption programmes for years which all emphasise the importance of dairy foods
She said: “The message has been clear – dairy products should be celebrated and promoted.
“The dairy industry was not consulted during this process and had no opportunity to give scientific evidence or help prevent serious flaws in the guidelines.
“For example, we do not believe that vulnerable groups such as breastfeeding women or teenage girls can practically meet their needs for calcium or iodine using the new eatwell plate.
“We need to understand how Public Health England reached their conclusions. Therefore, we will request all documents behind this decision and we will conduct our own modelling once these documents are made available.”
Alison Tedstone, PHE chief nutritionist said: "Our new Eatwell Guide helps people to understand what a healthy balanced diet looks like.
"The evidence shows that we should continue to base our meals on starchy carbohydrates, especially wholegrain, and eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables each day.
"On the whole, cutting back on foods and drinks that are high in saturated fat, salt, sugar and calories would improve our diets, helping to reduce obesity and the risk of serious illnesses such as heart disease and some cancers.
"A smoothie, together with fruit juice, now only counts as 1 of your 5 A Day and should be drunk with a meal as it’s high in sugar."
The new Eatwell guide says a healthy diet should now include more fruit, vegetables and starchy carbohydrates and have fewer sugary foods and drinks.
The Eatwell plate depicts a 'healthy, balanced diet', which includes:
On dairy, it urges the public to ‘try to have some milk and dairy food (or dairy alternatives) – such as cheese, yoghurt and fromage frais’.
It says: “These are good sources of protein and vitamins, and they’re also an important source of calcium, which helps to keep our bones strong.
“Some dairy food can be high in fat and saturated fat, but there are plenty of lower-fat options to choose from.”
It recommends going for ‘lower fat and lower sugar products where possible’, such as 1 per cent fat milk ‘which contains about half the fat of semi-skimmed milk without a noticeable change in taste or texture’ or reduced fat cheese.
It adds: “Or you could have just a smaller amount of the full-fat varieties less often. When buying dairy alternatives, go for unsweetened, calcium-fortified versions."
PHE have provided some sample daily consumption menus to illustrate its advice.
As far as dairy products are concerned one recommends:
Another goes for: