The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is asking for the public’s help in defining what “healthy” means when it comes to food. [1]

The agency officially launched the public process on redefining how the “healthy” label can be used September 27, and opened the matter up for public comment on the following day.

The FDA said:

“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.”

The agency’s Douglas Balentine blogged:

“As our understanding about nutrition has evolved, we need to make sure the definition for the ‘healthy’ labeling claim stays up to date.

For instance, the most recent public health recommendations now focus on type of fat, rather than amount of fat. They focus on added sugars, which consumers will see on the new Nutrition Facts label. And they focus on nutrients that consumers aren’t getting enough of, like vitamin D and potassium.” [2]

The process – sparked by food companies’ complaints that current regulations are outdated – will take a few years to complete.

What Is “Healthy”?

In 1994, when the term “healthy” was first officially defined, fat was considered the enemy of good health, so low fat was the focus of health professionals. Sugar wasn’t much of a concern, apart from causing cavities.

Under current regulations, food companies can only call a product “healthy” if it is low in fat, saturated fat, sodium and cholesterol, and contains a certain amount of beneficial nutrients, like vitamin C or calcium.

The health-conscious types probably don’t pour themselves a heaping bowl of Frosted Flakes before they embark on their morning run, yet Frosted Flakes are considered “healthy” because they meet all of the current criteria. They’re low in fat and fortified with vitamins.

However, almonds and avocados are not considered healthy, because they’re high in fat. Yes, I know they’re high in healthy fats that are good for your heart and give you lasting energy. That’s why the FDA is seeking input – the criteria need a serious overhaul.

One of the companies campaigning for label changes, Kind Snacks, decided to do so after receiving a warning letter from the FDA last year ordering it stop using the term “healthy” on its packaging because its fruit-and-nut bars contained too much saturated fat.


Source: Kind Snacks

Kind Snacks CEO Daniel Lubetzky said:

“We’re encouraged by the speed of progress within the FDA.”

The agency said it will exercise discretion in enforcing the current rule while working out how to redefine it, so as not to take action against food makers like Kind that don’t meet the exact definition of “healthy,” but still are low in total fat and provide at least 10% of the recommended potassium or vitamin D per serving.

In a statement, Kind said:

“The current regulation was established 20 + years ago. Under it foods like nuts, salmon and avocados cannot be labeled as healthy, but items like fat-free pudding and low-fat toaster pastries can.” [1]

Said Ballentine:

“While we are working on the ‘healthy’ claim, we also will begin evaluating other label claims to determine how they might be modernized.” [2]

This article originally appeared at Natural Society.


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