Making Sure 'Healthy' Means What It Says on Food Packages

Redefined “Healthy” Claim for Food Labeling

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it has started a public process to redefine the “healthy” nutrient content claim for food labeling. Redefining “healthy” is part of an overall plan to provide consumers with information and tools to enable them to easily and quickly make food choices consistent with public health recommendations and to encourage the development of healthier foods by the industry.

While FDA is considering how to redefine the term “healthy” as a nutrient content claim, food manufacturers can continue to use the term “healthy” on foods that meet the current regulatory definition. FDA is also issuing a guidance document stating that FDA does not intend to enforce the regulatory requirements for products that use the term if certain criteria described in the guidance document are met.

Public health recommendations for various nutrients have evolved, as reflected by the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the updated Nutrition Facts label. For example, healthy dietary patterns now focus on food groups, the type of fat rather than the total amount of fat consumed and now address added sugars in the diet. Also, the nutrients of public health concern that consumers aren’t getting enough of have changed. FDA is publishing a “request for information” to solicit public input as it redefines the term “healthy.” In addition, the Agency is planning other public forums to receive additional public input.

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Ria Van Hoef