Food and Nutrition Board

Members of the Center for Human Nutrition serve on the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB). Best known for overseeing the development of the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs), the Food and Nutrition Board is the parent committee that develops recommendations for daily intakes of nutrients. It is a unit of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies.

The FNB was established in 1940 to advise the U.S. on nutrition policy. It is made up of prominent nutritional scientists who serve rotations of three to six years. The scientists meet twice yearly to review major nutritional issues for the United States and other countries. They evaluate proposals made by U.S. governmental agencies for studies of questions of nutritional policy, and they advise the IOM whether to undertake these studies. Most of the funds for FNB/IOM projects derive from the federal government; smaller amounts can come from other sources.

Through 1989 the FNB published 10 editions of the RDAs. These were all published in single volumes. The last single-volume edition came out in 1989: Recommended Dietary Allowances: 10th Edition (1989). Also, in 1989, the FNB cosponsored a study called "Diet and Health: Implications for Reducing Chronic Disease (1999)." This report examined the role of nutrition in the causation of chronic diseases.

In the early 1990's the FNB decided to expand the scope of the RDAs to include the requirements of nutrients for prevention of chronic diseases as well as deficiency diseases. The name of the recommendations was changed to Dietary Reference Intakes. 

The FNB established a standing committee on Scientific Evaluation of Dietary Reference Intakes to develop the criteria for the process and to oversee its overall progress. In addition, the standing DRI committee appointed nutrient specific panels to develop individual reports. These panels have produced several reports, each being a separate volume.

Food Safety, Quality, and Adequacy

The supply of food and its quality and safety has emerged as major food issues. The internationalization of the food supply has created new questions about safety. Mass production of foods, including fresh meats, fruits, and vegetables, opens the possibility for contamination and widespread toxicity. The FNB constantly reviews these issues and appropriately offers advice to the U.S. Government on food policy.

Food Science and Technology

The age of advanced technology including molecular biology and genomics offers great opportunities for improvement of the food supply, both in the United States and worldwide. However, these technological advances give rise to many concerns — both justified and unjustified — about the safety of new foods.

The FNB, along with many other organizations, is being called upon to evaluate the status of the implications of technology for the world's food supply. The FNB has a role to play in advising U.S. governmental agencies and organizations in world food policy. With the quickening pace of technological changes in our food supply and increasing understanding of how food affects our health, it is imperative to examine and evaluate the complex interrelationships of food safety and nutrition issues. National policy makers need advice on nutrition and food science matters to ensure that their decisions are supported with the best scientific analysis.

As a division of the IOM, a distinguished source of health policy guidance for the nation, the Food and Nutrition Board is in an excellent position to examine and provide guidance on issues of food and health.