FDA sets bar high on ‘healthy’ claim

Articles
November 16, 2009

For food to be labeled as either ‘healthy’ or ‘useful in creating a diet consistent with dietary recommendations,’ it must meet a set of stringent FDA standards that surpass those for more limited health and wellness claims.

For food to be labeled as either ‘healthy’ or ‘useful in creating a diet consistent with dietary recommendations,’ it must meet a set of stringent FDA standards that surpass those for more limited health and wellness claims.

Their goal, it appears, is to foster food formulations that reflect a true commitment to health rather than a marketer’s opportunistic single claim or two on a package.

A brief summary of some of the FDA’s key stipulations starts with a Merriam-Webster-type list of the terms covered: healthy, health, healthful, healthfully, healthfulness, healthier, healthiest, healthily and healthiness. Use any one of these within the product name or on the package, and it needs to comply with the FDA’s Food Labeling Nutrition Guide.  

A meal/main dish, for instance, needs to be:
•    Low in fat
•    Low in saturated fat
•    Contain 600mg or less of sodium per labeled serving
•    Contain 90mg or less of cholesterol per labeled serving
•    Contain at least 10% of the Daily Value per labeled serving of two beneficial nutrients (for a main dish product), or three nutrients (for a meal product) of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron, protein or fiber.

Appendix B of the Guide stipulates detailed requirements for individual foods and seafood/game meat as well.   

Each of these different classifications (meal/main dish, individual foods, seafood/game meat) must also comply with definitions and declaration requirements for any specific nutrient content claims. These are explained further in 21 CFR 101.65(d)(2) from the Code of Federal Regulations. ? 

For our part at SupermarketGuru.com, we’d like to see manufacturers absorb this spirit of true usefulness and honest guidance to consumers. It would be refreshing if more CPG—and retailers too with their private labels—would think long and hard about the health consequences to consumers who are confused or misled by the multitude of health and wellness claims at the shelf. When formulating an item to achieve one limited claim, another aspect often goes awry (say, high sodium on a low-fat product). Thus, these high standards for ‘healthy,’ which we applaud.