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29 Sep, 2022 15:43

US offers a new definition of ‘healthy’

Food-safety watchdog proposing an updated product-labeling approach in a bid to improve people’s eating habits
US offers a new definition of ‘healthy’

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday proposed a new set of standards that food products must meet to be labeled “healthy.” The new rules would align the definition, which has not been updated since 1994, with “current nutrition science,” the watchdog said in a statement.

Under the updated definitions, in order to obtain a “healthy” label, the products should satisfy two criteria. First, they need to contain “a certain meaningful amount” of food from at least one of the food groups or subgroups recommended by the ‘Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025,’ such as fruit, vegetable or dairy. Second, the foods should adhere to specific limits of certain nutrients, such as saturated fat, sodium and added sugars.

The new standards would not only help people to build healthier diets but could also help to improve the quality of food products, the watchdog believes. According to the FDA, in a bid to secure a “healthy” label for their products, manufacturers might include more “fruits, vegetables, dairy and whole grains, and limit saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars” in their products.

“Today’s action is just one part of the agency’s ongoing commitment to reduce diet-related chronic diseases and advance health equity,” the FDA, which is part of the Health Department, said.

Nutrition-related illnesses are now “the leading cause of death and disability in the country,” according to the agency. By providing manufacturers with clear guidelines, and customers with clear labels on packaging, the FDA hopes to help people “to build healthy eating patterns” and thus to improve public health in general. 

The watchdog is suggesting a comprehensive approach to a healthy diet. Under the new rules, some products which currently cannot be labeled “healthy” can eventually get this mark by becoming part of “a diet consistent with current dietary recommendations.” As examples of such products, the FDA cites nuts, seeds, higher-fat fish such as salmon, as well as certain oils.  

The public consultations on the proposal will last 90 days. Meanwhile, the FDA is also looking for a new, easily recognizable logo for the labeling of “healthy” products.

According to the ‘Dietary Guidelines,’ more than 80% of US residents aren’t eating enough vegetables, fruit and dairy, while most people consume too much added sugars, saturated fats and sodium. The World Population Review this year placed the US in 12th place globally for population obesity, with more than 36% of Americans categorized as obese.