The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today issued a proposed rule to update the definition of the nutrient content claim “healthy.” The “healthy” claim can act as a quick signal on food package labels to help empower consumers, including those with lower nutrition knowledge, with information to identify foods that will help them build healthy eating patterns. Today’s action is just one part of the agency’s ongoing commitment to reduce diet-related chronic diseases and advance health equity. In addition to the proposed rule, the FDA joined today’s White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, highlighting the agency’s support of the national strategy to improve nutrition and health and empower all consumers to make and have access to healthy choices.
Diet-related chronic diseases in the U.S. are the leading causes of death and disability. Healthy eating patterns, which include fruits, vegetables, lower-fat dairy and whole grains, are associated with improved health, such as reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancers, and being overweight or obese. Providing informative and accessible food labeling empowers consumers and may help foster a healthier food supply for all if some manufacturers include more fruits, vegetables, dairy and whole grains and limit saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars in their products, to qualify to use the updated claim.
The proposed changes to the definition of “healthy” are aligned with current nutrition science, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 and the updated Nutrition Facts label. The FDA’s approach focuses on ensuring that nutrient-dense foods that help consumers to build a diet consistent with current dietary recommendations can qualify to bear the claim.
As an example, to include the “healthy” claim on the package, a cereal would need to contain a certain amount of whole grains and adhere to limits for saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars. Nuts and seeds, higher fat fish, such as salmon, certain oils, and water are examples of foods that cannot currently be labeled as “healthy” but are part of a healthy dietary pattern and recommended by the Dietary Guidelines and would qualify to bear the “healthy” claim under the proposed definition announced today.
On a separate but related track, the FDA is also researching a symbol that manufacturers could use on the front of the pack to show that their product meets the definition of the “healthy” claim. Having a standardized graphic to show that a food qualifies for the “healthy” claim would further support the FDA’s goal of helping consumers more easily identify packaged food products that help them build healthy eating patterns.
Comments on the proposed rule should be submitted within 90 days after publication in the Federal Register. Submit electronic comments to regulations.gov. Submit written comments to the Dockets Management Staff (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, rm. 1061, Rockville, MD 20852. All comments should be identified with the docket number FDA-2016-D-2335.