The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), an organization devoted to preventive medicine, a vegan diet and animal rights, has sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), claiming the agencies used deliberately obscure language in their 2010 Dietary Guidelines regarding the foods consumers should avoid.

While the guidelines specifically call for increased consumption of vegetables, fruits and whole grains, PCRM contends that the agencies “hide the food Americans should eat less of. The Guidelines use biochemical terms, such as ‘saturated fat’ and ‘cholesterol’ instead of specific food terms ‘meat’ and ‘cheese.’” According to PCRM, the guidelines are written this way due to “the USDA’s close ties to the meat and dairy industries, including fast-food companies such as McDonald’s.” The organization also apparently blames USDA’s dual mission of giving nutritional advice to Americans and promoting American agricultural products for the use of language better understood by scientists, biochemists and Nobel Laureates.

The lawsuit asks the court to order the agencies to “withdraw those portions of the Dietary Guidelines that use vague or ambiguous language to hide the ill effects of consuming meat and dairy products and reissue such portions with healthful recommendations based on the preponderance of current scientific and medical knowledge.” PCRM’s nutrition education director said, “Americans need straightforward health advice, not bureaucratic mumbo jumbo designed to protect agribusiness.” The complaint also reportedly asks the court to find that the agencies violated the Administrative Procedure Act by failing to respond to PCRM’s March 2010 petition calling on USDA and HHS to withdraw their MyPyramid food diagram and replace it with PCRM’s “power plate” diagram.

The Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), which refers to PCRM as a “phony ‘medical’ group,” has called the lawsuit another in a long line of efforts by the organization to “ram its anti-meat agenda,” down consumers’ throats. According to the center, “In recent years we’ve seen PCRM tying up the court system from coast to coast, seeking to remove eggs, milk, meat, and seafood from the American diet.” See The Washington Post, February 15, 2011; CCF Common Sense Daily, February 16, 2011; and PCRM Press Release, February 17, 2011.