The U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed updated criteria for when foods can be labeled with the nutrient content claim “healthy” on their packaging.
This proposed rule would align the definition of the “healthy” claim with current nutrition science, the updated Nutrition Facts label and the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
More than 80% of people in the U.S. aren’t eating enough vegetables, fruit and dairy. And most people consume too much added sugars, saturated fat and sodium. The proposed rule is part of the agency’s ongoing commitment to helping consumers improve nutrition and dietary patterns to help reduce the burden of chronic disease and advance health equity.
“Nutrition is key to improving our nation’s health,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “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 for the updated “healthy” claim, which is based on current nutrition science, more foods that are part of a healthy dietary pattern and recommended by the Dietary Guidelines would be eligible to use the claim on their labeling, including nuts and seeds, higher fat fish (such as salmon), certain oils and water.
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.
Along with empowering consumers, the FDA hopes that adopting the updated definition may help foster a healthier food supply if some manufacturers reformulate (e.g., add more vegetables or whole grains to meet criteria) or develop products that meet the updated definition.
Future planned actions include:
- Developing a front-of-package (FOP) labeling system to quickly and more easily communicate nutrition information to empower consumers to make healthy decisions.
- Facilitating making nutrition information easily available when grocery shopping online.
- Facilitating lowering the sodium content of food in the food supply, including by issuing revised, lower voluntary sodium reduction targets for industry.
- Holding a public meeting regarding future steps the federal government could take to facilitate lowering added sugar consumption.
- Releasing additional education and outreach efforts to ensure that parents and caregivers are aware of the latest recommendations for healthy eating in young children and for taking steps to reduce exposure to toxic elements in food.