Defining Whole Grain in Foods
Martin Hahn, Hogan & Hartson, L.L.C., SFA’s legal council, cautions snack manufacturers that FDA has not established a definition for “whole grains,” and it is unclear whether tortilla chips made from the traditional process would be considered whole grains. FDA may very well take the position that a whole-grain food must be made from the whole grain. The masa process involves the removal of the outer shell on the kernel of corn. It could be difficult to justify the labeling of tortilla chips made from the standard masa process as being from “whole grain” when part of corn kernel is removed during the processing. However, he admits that there is a difference of opinion on whether masa qualifies as a whole grain. He also admits that the whole-grain FDAMA notifications submitted to the agency include baked tortilla chips as an example of a whole grain food. The absence of an FDA regulation for “whole grain” creates both opportunity and vulnerability, he noted.
One person to suggest that it is appropriate to label tortilla chips as “made with whole grain” is Dr. Julie Miller Jones, College of St. Catherine. She notes that even though some of the outer layer of corn is lost during the nixtamalization process, the resulting masa is effectivley a whole grain.
The Whole Grains Council crafted a definition of “whole grains,” with input from members of the American Association of Cereal Chemists (AACC). The definition is:
“Whole grains or foods made from them contain all the essential parts and naturally occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed. If the grain has been processed (e.g., cracked, crushed, rolled, extruded, lightly pearled and/or cooked), the food product should deliver approximately the same rich balance of nutrients that are found in the original grain seed.”
The council give examples of generally accepted whole-grain foods and flours, which included amaranth, barley (lightly pearled), brown and colored rice, buckwheat, bulgur, corn and whole cornmeal, oatmeal and whole oats, popcorn, quinoa, whole rye, whole or cracked wheat, wheat berries, and wild rice.