The FDA has opened a public comment period to come up with a new definition for “healthy” claims on food labels. This redefinition of the term will help ensure that food packages displaying this term correspond with the expectations of consumers and with recent advances in nutrition science.
The FDA plans to hold public forums to invite input from consumers on the redefinition of the term, which is currently defined based on a 20-year-old regulation that precludes certain foods like nuts, avocados, and salmon from being labeled healthy, all the while allowing fat-free desserts that may be high in sugar to use the claim.
“By updating the definition, we hope more companies will use the ‘healthy’ claim as the basis for new product innovation and reformulation, providing consumers with a greater variety of ‘healthy’ choices in the marketplace,” writes writes Douglas Balentine, Ph.D., Director, Office of Nutrition and Food Labeling at FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.
The decision to establish a new definition of healthy was made in large part by snack bar company KIND’s Citizen Petition, filed last December, which highlighted the importance of using real, whole ingredients, particularly in packaged foods.
“We’re encouraged by the speed of progress within the FDA and see this as a notable milestone in our country’s journey to redefine healthy,” writes KIND’s CEO & Founder, Daniel Lubetzky. “The FDA has posed a number of important questions for comment, and in our continued efforts to advocate for public health, we’re actively convening experts to help provide answers grounded in current nutrition science.”
A new definition of healthy will help consumers make better food decisions more quickly, according to Balentine.
“[Many people] just don’t have the time to consider the details of nutrition information on every package they purchase,” he writes. “In fact, most purchase decisions are made quickly, within three to five seconds.”
This redefinition of healthy follows the May announcement by the FDA of new Nutrition Facts labels for packaged foods. The new labels focus on types of fat rather than amount of total fat, added sugars, and nutrients that consumers aren’t getting enough of, such as vitamin D and potassium.
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