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US aims to change ‘healthy’ food labels as it fights malnutrition

The federal government is seeking to change what is required for food products to label themselves “healthy,” as part of the White House’s plan to boost nutrition nationwide.

The Biden administration wants to end hunger by 2030 and increase nutrition in a country where the obesity rate now exceeds 40%. But its recommendations, which were highlighted Wednesday at the first summit on the topic since 1969, depend largely on congressional cooperation and agency actions.

Food and Drug Administration Suggested rule Reforming the definition of “healthy” on food labels is an early tangible measure of the White House’s hunger goals. If such a rule is applied, food companies such as Kellogg Company And the PepsiCo Inc. Need to describe their products as healthy, and address age-old fears that Americans eat too many processed foods and don’t understand how to get nutrients right.

“Today’s action 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,” FDA Commissioner Robert Califf said in a statement.

Boxes of cereal stand on the shelves of Murphy’s Giving Market food bank in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, on September 26, 2022.

Photographer: Rachel Wisniewski / Bloomberg

More than 1 in 10 Americans suffer from diabetes, a disease linked to poor nutrition, and health conditions linked to the diet have been on the rise in recent years. Nutrition advocates point out that diet-related health problems are more serious in lower-income populations, where lower wages and higher production costs make access to processed and packaged foods much easier than eating fresh meals.

Under the proposed rule, food products must contain a significant amount of at least one food group recommended in the US Dietary Guidelines, such as fruits or vegetables. They will also need to meet requirements for nutrients such as saturated fat, sodium and added sugars, which may vary based on the food group.

Currently, the FDA’s definition allows companies to claim that certain foods are “healthy” when they “contain levels of nutrients that would not assist consumers in maintaining healthy dietary practices,” the agency wrote. Some foods, such as salmon, also cannot be said to be “healthy” due to their higher levels of fat – a more detailed definition that would be addressed by recognizing the different requirements of different food groups.

Read more: GOP Rancor to miss first White House hunger summit in decades

The agency also plans to develop a plan for labeling the package, as part of the White House’s Hunger, Nutrition, and Health strategy. Any new requirements on food labels may lead to protests from food manufacturers; Trade groups have confirmed their desire to make voluntary changes in labeling rather than restrictions.

“We urge the implementation of policies that may inadvertently harm consumers, particularly in the volatile economic environment that has caused the cost of manufacturing groceries to rise,” Sarah Gallo, vice president of product policy for the Consumer Brands Association, said in a statement. . “Focus on incentive-based and voluntary initiatives, such as voluntary interpretive label schemes on the front of the pack that are fully supported by extensive research, have the potential to positively impact our shared goals on hunger, nutrition and health policies.”

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