FDA Proposes Updates to “Healthy” Claim on Food Packages

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed updated criteria for when foods can be labeled with the nutrient content claim “healthy” on their packaging.

“Nutrition is key to improving our nation’s health,” said Xavier Becerra, Secretary of the Department of Health & Human Services. “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.”

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 FDA says that adopting the updated definition will not only empower consumers but also may help foster a healthier food supply if some manufacturers reformulate, for example, add more vegetables or whole grains to meet criteria or develop products that meet the updated definition.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans for 2020-2025, the core elements that make up a healthy dietary pattern include vegetables of all types, fruits, grains, at least half of which are whole grain, dairy products, animal and plant protein products, and oils.

The Dietary Guidelines recommend to limit:

  • Added sugars to less than 10% of calories per day starting at age 2.
  • Saturated fat to less than 10% of calories per day starting at age 2.
  • Sodium to less than 2.3 grams per day — and even less for children younger than age 14.
  • Alcoholic beverages. Adults of legal drinking age can choose not to drink or to drink in moderation by limiting intake to 2 drinks or less in a day for men and one drink or less in a day for women when alcohol is consumed.

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