The Food and Drug Administration is reformulating its 28-year-old definition of “healthy” foods to allow fish, nuts and many other items to qualify for the label if they provide meaningful amounts of products that people are supposed to eat under federal dietary guidelines.
Under a proposed rule announced on Wednesday, food labeled as “healthy” must contain a minimum amount of food from at least one of the groups or subgroups, including fruits, vegetables, nuts and lean meats, recommended for consumption under 2020. – 2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Qualified foods cannot contain excessive amounts of saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars.
The FDA says that some foods, such as raw and whole fruits and vegetables, and water, will automatically qualify for the revised definition.
For other products, there may be different content requirements based on the type of item and food group. For example, a main dish may be required to contain a “food group equivalent”, such as half a cup of fruit or vegetables, from at least two food groups.
The FDA said breakfast cereals labeled “healthy” should contain 3/4 ounces of whole grains and no more than 1 gram of saturated fat, 230 milligrams of sodium and 2.5 grams of added sugars.
The agency also says it is in the process of developing a code that food companies can use on products that comply with proposed regulations.
Under the current definition, implemented in 1994, foods labeled “healthy” must contain certain amounts of individual nutrients as well as not exceed limits on total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.
The agency says the definition no longer fits with dietetics or the latest dietary guidelines and current regulations exclude healthy foods such as salmon. Salmon cannot be classified as healthy due to fat restrictions.
About 5% of foods now on the market qualify as “healthy” under current regulations.
In the proposed 105-page rule, the FDA says the new definition is “appropriately flexible to allow for industrial innovation, and thus increase the availability of foods in the marketplace that will help consumers meet nutritional recommendations.”
The US Food and Drug Administration announced the launch of the proposed new definition in conjunction with the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health, which focused on a national strategy to end hunger and reduce diet-related disease.
The agency has also begun work on labeling requirements on the front of the packaging, a key recommendation in the strategy.
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Redefining the “healthy” labeling claim “is an important step toward achieving a number of nutrition-related priorities, which include empowering consumers with information to choose healthy diets and establish healthy eating habits early on,” Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Robert Califf said. to provide a healthy food supply.
In the proposed regulation, the agency says it did not set minimum nutrient levels for “healthy” foods because doing so encouraged companies to add nutrients to foods like white bread that would otherwise “not contribute to a meaningful amount of a food group.”
Restrictions on saturated fat vary according to the recommended daily limit, or daily value, for different types of food, as suggested by the Food and Drug Administration. For example, the limit would be 5% of the daily value for fruits, vegetables and grain products, 10% for dairy, bushmeat, seafood, and eggs, and 20% of the total fat for oils, spreads, and oil-based dressings.
The FDA says it has not proposed a limit on total fat because dietary guidelines now focus on replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fat. The proposed rule reads, “Current nutritional science supports the view that type of fat is more relevant than total fat intake to the risk of chronic disease.”
Roberta Wagner, vice president of regulatory and technical affairs for the Consumer Brand Association, says the new definition of “health” will only work if it is clear and consistent for manufacturers and understandable by consumers. Identification is the first step that should be time-tested to ensure that its intent to provide information to help make healthy choices is being met.”
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