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‘Healthy’ May Be Getting a New Definition


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced in late September that it has begun the process of redefining what “healthy” stands for on food labels. The term is a nutrient content claim, meaning that it can only appear on a product if it has certain nutritional qualities based on metrics like levels of fat and sodium.

The FDA noted that “public health recommendations for various nutrients have evolved,” and the term “healthy” has not necessarily kept up. Healthy diets are now more focused on the type of fat rather than the total amount of fat. But old standards have meant that foods like fat-free chocolate pudding can be labeled as healthy, while avocados and salmon cannot. Nutritionists are also more concerned about added sugars than in the past—something the current definition of healthy does not reflect.

The public began commenting on the “healthy” issue on the FDA’s website.

The FDA acknowledged that the redefinition was in part sparked by a Citizen Petition from snack bar maker Kind, which received a warning letter from the FDA last March asking the company to remove the word “healthy” from the packaging of some of its products. The FDA ultimately allowed Kind to keep its language after the company argued that the term was being used to describe the company’s culture and philosophy.

The guidelines are “based on 20-year-old thinking that new science has overridden,” Kind CEO Daniel Lubetzky told Fortune at the time.

The comment period for the Request for Information and the Guidance for Industry started on September 28, 2016. The due date is January 26, 2017.

Submit electronic comments on http://www.regulations.gov to docket folder FDA-2016-D-2335.

Submit written comments to:

Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305)
Food and Drug Administration
5630 Fishers Lane, rm. 1061
Rockville, MD 20852.
All comments should be identified with the docket number FDA-2016-D-2335.

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