The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Wednesday a proposal to change the definition of “healthy” used on food labels. It was billed as a way to end hunger, improve nutrition and physical activity and reduce diet-related diseases by 2030.
“Nutrition is key to improving our nation’s health,” said Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra in a statement. “Healthy food can lower our risk for chronic disease. But too many people may not know what constitutes healthy food. FDA’s move will help educate more Americans to improve health outcomes, tackle health disparities and save lives.”
The Epoch Times further reported:
According to the FDA, the proposed rule would update the definition of “healthy” 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.”
The current “healthy” definition was first implemented in 1994. That definition meant that foods must contain certain minimum amounts of individual nutrients including vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron, protein, and dietary fiber. It also set limits on total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium, in order for a food product to bear the “healthy” label.
Under the existing definition, about five percent of foods in the marketplace would qualify as “healthy.” According to the FDA, changes in nutrition science and federal dietary guidance since 1994 have made the current “healthy” definition outdated.
Its proposed definition, however, is based on current nutrition science, and would mean that more foods recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans would be eligible to be labeled as “healthy,” the agency stated. This includes nuts and seeds, fish with higher fat content such as salmon, and certain oils and water.
According to the agency, current nutrition science “emphasizes nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, as key elements of a healthy dietary pattern.” The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 defines nutrient-dense foods as those that “provide vitamins, minerals, and other health-promoting components and have little added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium.”
The FDA noted that the current “healthy” definition from 1994 would exclude certain nutrient-dense food, such as salmon, due to its high-fat content, but would include other foods that would not be considered by up-to-date nutrition science and dietary guidance as being able to help people maintain healthy dietary practices, such as certain ready-to-eat cereals that may have high levels of added sugars.
To qualify for the “healthy” label on food packaging under the new proposed definition, the food must contain a “certain meaningful amount of food from at least one of the food groups or subgroups (e.g., fruit, vegetable, dairy, etc.)” that are recommended by the dietary guidelines.
It must also not exceed specific limits for certain nutrients, which include saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars. Per the FDA, the threshold for the limits is based on a percent of the daily value (DV) for the nutrient. This varies depending on the food and food group.
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