This week the U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed updated criteria for when foods can be labeled with the nutrient content claim “healthy” on their packaging. This proposed rule would align the definition of the “healthy” claim with current nutrition science, the updated Nutrition Facts label and the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
The proposed rule would update the “healthy” claim definition to better account for how all the nutrients in various food groups contribute and may work synergistically to create healthy dietary patterns and improve health. Under the proposed definition for the updated “healthy” claim, which is based on current nutrition science, more foods that are part of a healthy dietary pattern and recommended by the Dietary Guidelines would be eligible to use the claim on their labeling, including nuts and seeds, higher fat fish (such as salmon), certain oils and water.
Under the proposed definition, in order to be labeled with the “healthy” claim on food packaging, the products would need to:
- Contain a certain meaningful amount of food from at least one of the food groups or subgroups (e.g., fruit, vegetable, dairy, etc.) recommended by the Dietary Guidelines.
- Adhere to specific limits for certain nutrients, such as saturated fat, sodium and added sugars. The threshold for the limits is based on a percent of the Daily Value (DV) for the nutrient and varies depending on the food and food group. The limit for sodium is 10% of the DV per serving (230 milligrams per serving).
For example, a cereal would need to contain ¾ ounces of whole grains and contain no more than 1 gram of saturated fat, 230 milligrams of sodium and 2.5 grams of added sugars.
The agency is also in the process of studying and exploring the development of a symbol that manufacturers could use to show that their product meets the “healthy” claim criteria. The agency realizes that consumers are busy and, while shopping, may be seeking a quick way to identify and select healthy products.
Future planned actions include:
- Developing a front-of-package (FOP) labeling system to quickly and more easily communicate nutrition information.
- Facilitating making nutrition information easily available when grocery shopping online.
- Facilitating lowering the sodium content of food in the food supply, including by issuing revised, lower voluntary sodium reduction targets for industry.
- Holding a public meeting regarding future steps the federal government could take to facilitate lowering added sugar consumption.
- Releasing additional education and outreach efforts to ensure that parents and caregivers are aware of the latest recommendations for healthy eating in young children and for taking steps to reduce exposure to toxic elements in food.