FDA Wants To Put A Healthy Label On Certain Foods

The FDA is considering adding a healthy label to foods in order to separate those options from ones poor for the diet.

By Jennifer Hollohan | Published

A new FDA update on the table may soon change the labeling requirements for your favorite food items. The organization has struggled to keep up with news of advancements in nutrition science. However, they recently took a positive step with a proposal to change how foods can qualify for a healthy label.

According to a CNN report, the existing healthy label laws allow high-sugar cereals to add the coveted label, but foods such as salmon cannot. And that is where the FDA comes in. They claim that scientific advancements warrant a simultaneous update to some labeling laws.

The new proposal recommends adjusted guidelines to require both a minimum number of nutrients present and the overall nutrient density of the food. Additionally, the packaged goods receiving a healthy label would need a meaningful amount of food from one of the primary food groups. That means sugary cereal will finally be exempt.

Additionally, foods naturally rich in fats would finally qualify for the label. That will be welcome news to producers of seeds, oils, and nuts. The industry has long gotten a bad rap in the world of nutrition and can now hopefully step out from under that. 

US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra issued a press release to accompany the news of the FDA’s healthy labeling proposal. In it, he said, “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.”

However, not everyone agrees with Secretary Becerra. Nutrition advocates are less than pleased with the proposal. From their perspective, it does not go far enough. 

The Center for Science in the Public Interest is one vocal critic of the proposal. They argue that the proposed healthy label guidelines will make it more difficult for companies to achieve. Instead, they recommend additional resources to educate the public on the difference between healthy and nutritious. 

And chief among those educational resources would be warning labels such as those used in the UK and Mexico. Both countries require labels on the front of packages warning consumers of high fat, sodium, or sugar content. The official opinion of the Center for Science in the Public Interest is that these labels would do far more to educate consumers than a healthy label. 

As with all new proposals, they are open for public comment before any decisions get made. The advocacy group plans to submit its own response in that forum. And if any individuals have strong feelings one way or the other, they should as well.

They rolled out a category for healthy labeling in 1994, but it has not undergone any updates since then. Under the current guidelines, approximately 5% of packaged goods qualify for this sought-after label. And the food items have to meet a nutritional criteria threshold before receiving FDA approval. 

Some of the criteria packaged foods have to meet include – minimum amounts of fiber, iron, vitamins A and C, calcium, and protein. Additionally, they cannot exceed a pre-determined amount of fat, sodium, and cholesterol. However, even with these requirements, there is no guarantee the food with a healthy label is actually healthy.