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Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Proposes Changes to "Healthy" Labeling on Food Packages

Recently the White House held its Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health and released a new national strategy to end hunger, improve nutrition, and increase physical activity.

Consequently, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed changes to the nutrition standards for “healthy” labeling on food packages.

About 5% of foods are labeled as being "healthy", which is a claim regulated by the FDA. Foods that seek to meet the claim must limit individual nutrients like fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. They must also contain minimum amounts of vitamins A and C, calcium, iron, protein, and dietary fiber.

The FDA has said that the term has become outdated largely due to changes in nutrition and dietary science. For example, some cereals with high amounts of added sugars still meet the definition of "healthy", but salmon, which is high in (beneficial) polyunsaturated fat, does not.

The proposed criteria would change how the term healthy is defined. Instead of counting only individual nutrients, healthy claims would also consider the variety of nutrients and nutrient density. In order to be labeled with the “healthy” claim, products would need to:

  • Contain a certain, meaningful amount of food from at least one of the food groups or subgroups – such as fruits, vegetables or dairy – recommended by the Dietary Guidelines.

  • Adhere to specific limits for certain nutrients, such as saturated fat, sodium and added sugars. The threshold is based on a percent of the daily value for the nutrient and varies depending on the food and food group. The limit for sodium, for example, is 10% of the DV.

For example, a cereal would need to contain three-quarters of an ounce of whole grains and no more than 1 gram of saturated fat, 230 milligrams of sodium, and 2.5 grams of added sugars.

Foods that are rich in fats, like certain oils, nuts and seeds, would also be newly eligible for the healthy claim, the FDA says.

US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra stated, “Nutrition is key to improving our nation’s health. Healthy food can lower our risk for chronic disease. (But) too many people may not know what constitutes healthy food. FDA’s move will help educate more Americans to improve health outcomes, tackle health disparities, and save lives.”


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