Agriculture Secretary John R. Block raised eyebrows at his confirmation hearing in January when he said, "I'm not so sure government should get into telling people what they should or shouldn't eat." It was assumed that he was referring to the Dietary Guidelines, a 22-page government pamphlet with advice on what you should eat. Over the past few years, the government has distributed 7 million copies of it, much to the dismay of some in the food industry, who weren't wild about its warnings on cholesterol, fats, sugar and sodium.
Assistant Secretary Mary C. Jarratt last week reassured a nutrition education group that the department was not withdrawing the guidelines. But it's not doing a whole lot to push them, either. After its 85,000-copy supply runs out, probably in about three weeks, inquiries will be referred to the Government Printing Office, where you will be able to purchase a copy for $1.50.
Meanwhile, at the Health and Human Services Department, the guideines are going to play "a dominant role" in Secretary Richard S. Schweicker's Prevention Initiative, according to an HHS official who is involved with it. Among other things, the initiative sets specific goals for reducing the population's cholesterol and sodium levels over the next decade and getting others to promote the guidelines. The HHS official said a decision has not been made on what the department will do when its supply of the booklet runs out.