USDA Redesigning

Food Guide Pyramid

The Food Guide Pyramid, the nutritional standard that has come under fire in recent years for being too vague, is being redesigned "to remind consumers to make healthful food choices," the Agriculture Department said in a Federal Register notice seeking public comments.

An estimated 80 percent of Americans can identify the pyramid, according to Eric Hentges, executive director of the USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. But national surveys suggest that most Americans' eating habits are more apt to resemble an hourglass: heavy on high-fat, sugary foods and processed carbohydrates and light on fruit, vegetables and low-fat dairy products.

The pyramid is being revised as part of the ongoing review of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, which Congress mandates must be updated every five years. New guidelines are scheduled for release in January.

Will the USDA scrap the pyramid altogether? "No decision has been made," Hentges said at a briefing yesterday. "Secretary [Ann] Veneman has said that she is open to debate and has made it very clear that we will explore all possibilities."

The 45-day comment period ends Aug. 27. Comments must be submitted in writing to the Food Guide Pyramid Reassessment Team, USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, 3101 Park Center Drive, Room 1034, Alexandria, Va. 22302.

Trial to Determine Cost

Of Nuclear Waste

The government's failure to open a dump site for commercial nuclear waste could expose taxpayers to tens of billions of dollars in damages, and the first trial to determine exactly how much began in a courtroom across the street from the White House.

Owners of three reactors in New England say they are spending hundreds of millions of dollars building storage facilities and maintaining spent nuclear fuel that the government, under a contract, had promised to pick up six years ago. More than 60 claims have been filed seeking damages from the government.

Courts have ruled that the Department of Energy is liable for the cost of keeping the waste because of a breach of contract. The industry said the tab could be as high as $56 billion.

The first case, involving three utilities that own the Yankee group of reactors in Maine, Massachusetts and Connecticut, went to trial before the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. The trial is expected to last seven weeks.

Lawmakers Pass

Operations Bill

Congress would get about the same $2.75 billion for its own operations in 2005 as this year, and lawmakers would get a chance for enhanced dental and other benefits under a bill the House passed.

The overall measure, approved 327 to 43, is $2 million below the amount provided this year for the House and congressional agencies such as the Congressional Budget Office and Capitol Police.

The measure would permit an in-house study on whether to improve the dental, vision and hearing benefits for lawmakers and aides.

-- From News Services and Staff Reports