“Healthy” claims on food packaging to get updated criteria

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The Food and Drug Administration is proposing to update the criteria for labeling foods as “healthy” on their packaging. Comments on this proposal are expected by December 28.

Under existing rules, there are specific criteria for the individual nutrients that must be met in a food for it to carry the “health” claim, including limits on total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, and minimum amounts of nutrients whose consumption is encouraged. , such as vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron, protein and dietary fibre. However, nutrition science and federal dietary recommendations have changed since the “health” claim was first defined in 1994, rendering the current rules obsolete.

The FDA says that under the proposed rule, more foods that are part of a healthy diet and recommended by the Dietary Guidelines would be eligible to use the “healthy” claim on their labeling, including nuts and seeds, fatty fish (such as salmon), certain oils and water. Specifically, the rule states that to use this claim, products should (1) contain some significant amount of foods from at least one of the food groups or subgroups (e.g. fruits, vegetables, dairy ) recommended by dietary guidelines and (2) meet specific limits for certain nutrients, such as saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars. The proposed rule would also add certain record keeping requirements for foods bearing the “health” claim when compliance cannot be verified through information on the product label.

The FDA is also exploring the development of a symbol that manufacturers could use to show that their product meets the “safe” claim criteria.

For more information on this and other FDA issues, please contact FDA consultant Domenic Veneziano at (202) 734-3939.

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