Do we really need him?

Do we really need him?

Tis FDA announce set of rules Suggest To force manufacturers to claim that a food product “healthy.” The proposed rules are much better than labeling the chaos that currently exists. But here’s the bottom line: Health claims are not about health. They are about selling food products.

The FDA says that a “healthy” product must meet two requirements: it must contain a large amount of food, and it must not have more than certain upper limits for saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars.

To clarify the “healthy” claim, the Food and Drug Administration does search a Code Food makers can use them, and may even test examples like these.


Food and Drug Administration

The US Food and Drug Administration says doing all of this would be “healthy” with 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and with Nutrition Facts Poster It is printed on food packaging.

This measure is the latest in the Food and Drug Administration’s attempt to simplify food label information so that it is easier for consumers to make healthy food choices. It’s also an attempt to avoid what food companies definitely don’t want: warning labels like the ones used in them ChileAnd the Braziland several other countries. And it’s been shown to discourage buying “junk” ultra-processed foods, just as they were meant to do, a message that even children or adults who can’t read will understand. No wonder food manufacturers would do anything to prevent its use.


If we should have health claims on food packaging, the FDA’s proposals are pretty good. It requires any product labeled “healthy” to contain some real foods (as opposed to a host of chemical ingredients or, as author Michael Pollan calls it, “food-like things”), and for the first time includes a limit on sugars.

Here’s an example provided by the Food and Drug Administration: To qualify for a “healthy” claim, a cereal breakfast must contain at least three-quarters of an ounce of whole grains and can contain no more than one gram of saturated fat, 230 milligrams of sodium and 2.5 grams of added sugars.

These proposed rules would exclude nearly all cereals marketed to children.

But do Americans really need health claims about food products? You would think that any relatively unprocessed food from a plant or animal should be considered healthy without FDA approval, and you’d be right. But health claims are not about health. It aims to get people to buy food productsNot real foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, meat, poultry, dairy, eggs, or fish.

Food companies love the term “healthy” because it drives people to buy food products.

History of “Health”

How did we get to where the FDA needs to require a product that contains real food to be considered “healthy”? Blame the rods of type.

In 2015, KIND (then a small private company, but now owned by Mars) declared its bars healthy because they contain whole foods like grains and nuts. But nuts contain more fat than the Food and Drug Administration allowed at the time for products labeled “healthy.” Food and Drug Administration Kind . caution That his penises violated the rules of health claims.

Resist KIND. He. She File a citizen petition Arguing that although nuts are higher in fat than the Food and Drug Administration allows, they are healthy. The FDA can hardly argue otherwise – of course Nuts are healthy – He slipped. Kind . allowed To use the term she would reconsider her old definition of the term “healthy”. That was good news for KIND.

At the time, the FDA’s definition of “healthy” set upper limits for fat, saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol. requires at least small amounts of one or more vitamins or minerals; And he didn’t say anything about sugars. So the FDA’s new proposals open up new avenues in simplifying nutrition standards and putting an end to sugars.

Package introduction codes

These also have a long history with the Food and Drug Administration. In the early 1990s, when the agency was writing the rules for nutrition facts labels on food products, it tested the public understanding of several prototype designs. As it happened, no one could understand any of the samples well, so the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) chose the sample least understood. Shortly thereafter, food companies and health organizations developed codes that would allow buyers to identify at a glance which products were supposed to be good for them.

By 2010, there were more than 20 such symbols on food packaging. The FDA has commissioned the Institute of Medicine to conduct studies on front-pack labeling. Institute The first report On the topic, the strengths and weaknesses of all the codes that confuse processed food labels were examined, and recommended that the Food and Drug Administration put in place a single code that covers only calories, saturated fat, trans fat and sodium. Why not sugars too? The institute said the calories take care of them.

But the institute second report Sugars are not included. She recommended a labeling system on the front of the package that would give food products zero, star, two or three stars (or check marks) depending on the number of unwanted nutrients.

This idea so worried food manufacturers that they quickly developed Facts Up Front Labeling System In use today.

This, in my opinion, is so mysterious that no one cares about it. But that scheme, along with industry opposition, was all it took to get the Food and Drug Administration to abandon the whole idea of ​​a code that would tell people what Not to eat.

Here we are, a decade later with the current FDA proposal. This plan is robust enough to exclude huge segments of supermarket products from self-definition as “healthy”. Products marked “Healthy” must contain real food and be low in saturated fat, salt, and sugar, according to federal dietary guidelines.

The new rules won’t prevent “healthy” products from being loaded with additives and artificial sweeteners. The FDA will not require warning labels for unhealthy products work better of other icons. But these proposals represent a marked improvement over the current situation.

And the Food and Drug Administration may do more. The idea of ​​warning signs can be seen. Already promising to decide on another obscure marketing term, “natural.” A decision on that cannot be made soon.

As for “Health,” the Food and Drug Administration is seeking feedback on its proposals. Instructions for filing comments, which can be up to December 28, 2022, are at Food labels: nutrient content claims; Define the term “healthy.

I can’t wait to see what companies wanting to sell as “healthy” ultra-processed food products have to say about it.

Marion Nestle is Professor Emeritus of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University, author of the Food Politics blog, and author of the new memoir, “Slow Cooked: An Unlimited Life in Food Politics” (University of California Press, October 2022).

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