September 28, 2022 – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposes an updated criteria for when foods can be labeled with the nutrient content claim “healthy” on their packaging. This proposed rule would change the criteria for which packaged foods could use the word “healthy” on their label.
Why is the FDA proposing a change – The objective is to modernize the Food and Drug Administration’s approach to nutrition and reduce the burden of diet-related diseases.
According to the FDA, more than 80% of people in the U.S. aren’t eating enough vegetables, fruit and dairy. Instead, consumers are adding too much sugars, saturated fat and sodium to their diets. The proposed rule is part of the agency’s ongoing commitment to helping consumers improve nutrition and dietary patterns to help reduce the burden of chronic disease and advance health equity.
The problem – Currently, the healthy word definition, which was set in 1994, allows for food manufacturers to add the word “healthy” to their products, as long as the products have limited amounts of total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium and provide at least 10 percent of the daily value of one or more of the following nutrients: vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron, protein or dietary fiber. The sweet issue – Based on today’s regulations there is not a limit on added sugars under the current definition — an omission that the FDA believes is inconsistent with today’s nutrition science.
How would this work on the grocery shelf – Let’s say you’re walking down the cereal aisle at Kroger’s. Plenty of products scream the word “healthy” on the box, based on their nutrition claims, whether that be no cholesterol or that it’s multi-grain. This would change under these new guidelines.
When the regulation becomes official, a serving would need to contain ¾ ounces of whole grains and also contain no more than 1 gram of saturated fat, 230 milligrams of sodium and 2.5 grams of added sugars.
A Healthy Symbol – On a separate but related track, the FDA has begun to conduct research on a symbol that the industry can voluntarily use to label food products that meet the proposed “healthy” definition. Symbols may be particularly helpful for those with lower nutrition knowledge to identify foods that can be the foundation of a healthy eating pattern.
About the FDA
The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.
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