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Transcript of Remarks by Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns Regarding the New Food Guidance System

Location: Washington, DC

Transcript of Remarks by Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns and Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Eric Bost Regarding the New Food Guidance System

UNDER SEC. ERIC BOST: "Good morning, and welcome. This is Eric Bost. Today's a wonderful day. There's some things we want to share with you. Sixty-five percent of adults aged 20 to 74 are overweight, and nearly one-half of these are obese. The percentage of children who are overweight has doubled from 7 to 15 percent in the course of the last 20 years. The percentage of adolescents who are overweight has almost tripled from 5 to almost 16 percent.

"Diabetes has increased by 49 percent in the past 10 years. One in three persons born in 2000 will develop diabetes if no change is made in their current health habits. If we don't change these trends, our children may be the first generation that cannot look forward to a longer life span than their parents- something that should be very troubling to all of us.

"Beyond the cost to the individual being overweight and the obesity issue is costing this great nation of ours approximately $123 billion in direct and indirect costs. This Administration recognizes that government has an important role to play in terms of addressing this issue. For that reason, President Bush launched the Healthier U.S. Initiative in 2002 to better focus the resources of the federal government to help Americans move toward a healthier lifestyle.

"We have a wonderful partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services. I hope my partner Dr. [Christina] Beato is here. But we know that government cannot solve this problem alone. We need many partners to make our efforts effective and successful long-term. We need the media, industry, researchers, teachers, school administrators, parents, and organizations such as America on the Move who is represented today by Dr. Jim Hill, the executive director.

"Today the Secretary will unveil our new food guidance system and its new symbol that replaces the original food guide pyramid. The new food guidance system is not a diet, but rather a set of motivational and educational tools designed to help consumers make healthier choices with a more personalized approach.

"Before I introduce the Secretary I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank our staff who have done a truly outstanding job of getting us to this point.

"Now it is indeed my pleasure to introduce to all of you a man of great integrity, a man who truly cares about children and families in this great country of ours- the 28th Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture, Mike Johanns."


SEC. MIKE JOHANNS: "Thank you very much. Good morning. And let me start this morning by saying thank you, Eric, for those very, very kind comments. And to all of you let me say, welcome to the USDA.

"I do have some thank yous that I would like to walk through quickly here. You know if I start literally I could go on and on, so if I've left somebody out I apologize. But there are some people that I want to acknowledge individually.

"Under Secretary Bost and Deputy Under Secretary Kate Coler, thank you for your leadership and your support for bringing this to fruition. Dr. Eric Hentges, the executive director of USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion- we thank you for your vision and your leadership. Carole Davis and her team at USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, thank you for all the work that you have done in preparing not only the Food Guidance System but also the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. As well as Roberto Salazar and the fine team at USDA's Food and Nutrition Service - all of you have done great work.

"And the list does go on and on, but I just wanted to express how much I appreciate the long hours and the important contributions that have been made to bring us to this day.

"I also want to acknowledge a good friend of mine, Secretary Mike Leavitt, for his help and the help of the Department of Health and Human Services. They've been important to this process. Appreciate it.

"And to fitness expert Denise Austin of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports for being here to help us celebrate the latest step forward in federal nutrition education - again Denise, thank you for being here.

"Well ladies and gentlemen, today marks the accumulation of a very long process that included the work of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee and its report which was completed last August, compilation of the 2005 edition of the Dietary Guidelines for American,s which were released just in January, and now the preparation and release of the tools to help educators and consumers implement the Dietary Guidelines.

"USDA has provided nutrition guidance now for more than a century. USDA's materials have evolved with the changing needs of a changing and growing nation, and with our increased understanding of what does constitute a healthy diet and lifestyle.

"The most recent food guidance released by the federal government known as the Food Guide Pyramid was developed in 1992. It's become quite familiar, but few Americans follow the recommendations. So with that in mind, it became clear that we needed to do a much better job of communicating the nutrition messages so that Americans could understand how to begin making positive changes in their lifestyles.

"And of course another thing is very obvious. The science has evolved since 1992 with additional research on issues including the nutritional content of foods and food consumption patterns.

"Many of you here today have been a part of the long process. You know that a lot of effort has gone into examining the science, compiling the information and obtaining public input. So without further ado, I am pleased to present the results."


ANNOUNCER: "After 12 years it was time for USDA to update the Food Guide Pyramid to reflect the government's new dietary guidelines including the importance of balancing what we eat with our physical activity.

"To do this we tipped the pyramid on its side. Now all the food group bands run from the top of the pyramid to the base. The different sizes of the bands show the proportion of food we should eat from each food group.

"The bands are much wider at the base to remind us to eat mostly foods without solid fats and added sugar.

"Orange is for grains. Remember to make half of them whole grains.

"Green is for vegetables. Don't forget to eat dark green and orange ones.

"Red is for fruits - fresh, canned, frozen or dried.

"Blue is for milk products. Go for low fat or fat-free.

"Purple is for meat and beans. Choose lean meats and poultry and more fish, beans, nuts and seeds.

"Yellow is for oils. In addition to the five food groups, choose your oils carefully.

"Now physical activity or exercise. No matter what you call it, the steps remind us to be active every day.

"One pyramid does not fit all of us, so we created 12 different ones. Depending on how many calories you need and how active you are, there's one that's just right for you at MYPYRAMID.GOV for steps to a healthier you."

[End of video presentation.]


SEC. JOHANNS: "So we are very, very proud to present MyPyramid which now replaces the Food Guide Pyramid. It strongly supports the President's Healthier U.S. Initiative, which is designed to help all Americans live longer, healthier lives.

"MyPyramid is a system of information to help consumers understand how to put nutrition recommendations into actions. The symbol is meant to increase awareness, but the education is in the accompanying materials.

"These new materials will be made available through many channels. One of the most important however will be the website at MYPYRAMID.GOV.

"I want to underscore what MyPyramid is communicating, some of which was touched in the film we just saw.

"First, the idea of personalization. Every single American can find a MyPyramid that is right for them at MYPYRAMID.GOV with personalized recommendations on the kinds and the amounts of food to eat each day.

"Next is gradual improvement. The slogan 'Steps to a Healthier You' tells us that each one of us can benefit by starting to make even very small steps toward healthier lifestyles.

"Next is the importance of physical activity symbolized by the person climbing the steps.

"Then there is variety known by the six color bands of MyPyramid.

"Along with moderation symbolized by the narrowing of the color bands from bottom to top with more nutrient-dense foods at the bottom.

"And finally proportionality demonstrated by the different widths of each band, which is meant as an approximation of how much food we should get from each group.

"MYPYRAMID.GOV and the materials we are making available include several useful tools. You will find in-depth information about each food group with serving sizes given in common household measurements. You can also get tips on how to put MYPYRAMID to work for you, including a personalized and a printable worksheet.

"There is an educational frame-work to help our professionals, including programs and agencies, nutritionists and educators and the media develop additional consumer messages and materials. There are sample menus and a downloadable mini-poster. There's even information available on how Americans can make MyPyramid work for those with a particular food preference, such as a vegetarian lifestyle.

"But two of the most useful in interactive tools that we are providing are the MyPyramid Plan and the MyPyramid Tracker.

Now you can think of the MyPyramid Plan as sort of a MyPyramid 101. It provides a quick estimate of what kinds of food and how much you should eat based upon age and gender and activity level.

"The MyPyramid tracker is more like a graduate level tool. It does include detailed information on diet quality and physical activity status based on what you actually eat in your exact level of physical activity.

"At the conclusion of this event, ladies and gentlemen, staff in the back of the auditorium will escort interested reporters to see a demonstration of the more detailed MyPyramid tracker. The demonstration is very, very impressive.

"For now though I will quickly walk you through the most basic MyPyramid plan. This is the first screen you will see on MYPYRAMID.GOV. When you select MyPyramid Plan in the upper left, you will see the next screen. On this screen you will be asked to input some very basic information including your age, which in this case is the age for myself aged 54 - don't tell anybody that, all right? - and your gender, of course in my case is male; and your physical activity level.

"We started today like we start five days out of the week. Stephanie and I got up at 5:00, and we exercised for 20 minutes. What we do is, we share exercise equipment so one day I'm on the treadmill, the next day I'm on the aerodyne (sp). The result is a plan based on an estimated need of caloric consumption that provides serving amounts for each food group and tips to help you meet your targets.

"So what does my plan do? My plan allows for 2800 calories daily, with targets of 10 ounces of grain, 3.5 cups of vegetables, 2.5 cups of fruits, 3 cups of milk, and 7 ounces of meat and beans.

"Now we will continue to make enhancements to MYPYRAMID.GOV including the Spanish language version and soon a child-friendly version for children and teachers. As we begin to target additional audiences, partnerships will be a very important key part of our collaborative effort to help improve the nation's health.

"Everyone from government educators and health professionals, recreation and fitness interests, food industry and media can help play a role in a healthier U.S.

"Now we called the old Food Guide Pyramid a pyramid, but in reality it was more of a two-dimensional triangle with food groups arranged in hierarchy. But we live in a three-dimensional world, so we added a third dimension to MyPyramid. It is a figure ascending the steps of the pyramid, which makes the idea of physical activity more central to our message than ever.

"That's why I am so very, very pleased today to welcome Denise Austin. I'm thrilled she could be here. Denise is a wife, Denise is a mother, and is one of the most widely recognized and I might add respected fitness experts in all of the world. Her fitness television program has run for a remarkable 20 years.

"As we communicate the messages of MyPyramid, the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports will be one of those crucial partners that I spoke of. President Bush appointed Denise to the Council in 2002, and I am very pleased that she is here to join us this morning.

"Ladies and gentlemen, may I present Denise Austin."


MS. DENISE AUSTIN: "Thank you everybody. I'm so thrilled to be here. This is a very exciting day for fitness in our world, and we need to encourage everybody to move and be active.

"First of all I want to thank the Secretary for having me here. It's a fantastic program they've put together here at the USDA, and they've worked so hard for years and years to put it together for balance.

"Also I want to bring greetings from our President, one of the fittest presidents of ever in the history of presidency. He is in the top 1 percent of men his age. He's committed to physical fitness and eating right every single day, so he's a fantastic example to all of us.

"Also I wanted to let you know that Secretary Leavitt brings his congratulations to everybody. He's our Health and Human Services Secretary, which the President's Council on Physical Fitness is right under, so he wasn't able to make it today. He's really sorry. He has a lot of different schedules, so he wasn't able to change.

"But we are very excited because this is the first time ever in history that there is a symbol for physical fitness, for activity, and this is why this is so important because as we know it's all about eating right and exercise. They truly go hand in hand.

"To maintain good health and to maintain your weight, it's all about calories in and calories out. And truly it's that simple. So that's why it's so important to know exactly how much activity you're getting in the course of a day because it's the way to find out if you're going to maintain your weight.

"So always, always remember to keep active. We are now suggesting of course from January's guidelines that's 30-minutes most days. I personally work out 30 minutes every single day. That's my goal. I wake up in the morning, my husband and I get up before the kids, and we get in our 30-minute workout and feel good all day. I've been working out for 30 minutes over 25 years.

"So this is the goal for all Americans, and that's what we suggest.

"Now for all of you who say, oh 30 minutes, how am I going to squeeze it in? - remember, this is 16 waking hours we have. So 30 minutes to devote to good health, to feeling better, to reap the benefits of good health - 30 minutes is what it takes.

"Now if you want to break it up in 10-minute chunks, we know through research there are lots of exercise scientists that know that in 10-minute chunks you can have reaped some of the health benefits, but really you need to accumulate three of those so you get a 30-minute program in the course of a day.

"And we're talking about all different kinds of activities. You can go walking and that can be equal. Did you know on MYPYRAMID.GOV there are over 600 exercises to choose from, all different types of activities all the way from gardening - that's really getting your muscles moving. Remember, the more you move the more you'll lose, so the goal is you've got to eat right because we want a well-balanced eating plan which that's what this is all about. You have to eat right to feel good, to be healthy. But you have to exercise too.

"That's why I'm so excited that exercise, that activity, is part of this symbol, the first time. And what's important to know is, truly it is about calories in/calories out. So we all know that you've got to eat good, nutritious meals; but also you have to keep active.

"Every single day everybody sit up nice and tall, come on. Think about pulling your abdominals in, thinking about good posture. The more you move your muscles, the more calories you burn. Even while you're doing your dishes or doing your hair, you could be using those beautiful 640 muscles of the body. You have to move them. That's the goal.

"I tell people, if you rest you'll rust. So get yourself up, get yourself moving. That's the whole goal here, and that's what is so exciting about maintaining good health is to keep your body active.

"Did you know that you're burning more calories standing up than you are sitting down? So everybody stand up; we're just going to do a slight stretch. Come on! I can't leave without getting everybody active for just a minute. Arms up now! Come on, stretch that spine. Your spine is your lifeline; keep it healthy, keep it strong.

"Now stretch your back! Great for that waistline. Come on. Every minute counts! You're burning calories. That's it. Stretch it up. And relax. Good. Sit down and relax. Come on.

"Don't you feel better? The oxygen is flowing to all the muscles of the body. This is what's going to happen to people who want to feel better. Exercise is the key.

"And remember, try to do a little at a time. That's why I love the steps going up. It's one step at a time to a healthier you. And I'm so excited to be part of this. And the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports as well as Health and Human Services - we are going to team up with the USDA and really make it a joint effort to get our support out there because every American deserves to look and feel their best and also to feel health. And that's what it's all about.

"You can have all the money in the world, but if you don't have your health you have nothing. So give it, guys, come on. Eat right and exercise. That's the whole goal.

"Thanks for having me."


SEC. JOHANNS: "Denise, again thank you so very much for being here. I could not be more impressed. Did you see when you said sit up straight, when you said, 'Now everybody straighten up,' how everybody in the media straightened right up?"

MS. AUSTIN: "They did!"

SEC. JOHANNS: "Boy, I'm impressed.

"Well, ladies and gentlemen, before I'm joined by Under Secretary Bost and Denise and Dr. Hentges in answering your questions, I would just like to offer a couple reminders. I would like to remind the reporters about MyPyramid tracker demonstration after this event. Believe me, it is worth your time; it's a great demonstration.

"And reporters who wish to participate in a follow-up technical briefing by telephone at 1:00 p.m. may do so by following the instructions that are in the media advisory."


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