GAINESVILLE, Ga. — For years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had a definition of what foods were considered healthy, the existing definition dates back to 1993. However, the standard of healthy will be changing. On Sept. 28, the FDA announced new standards for the term for “healthy” and the proposed new standards will affect which types of foods will have the “healthy” label on their packaging. These new requirements will support the present nutrition criteria and dietary rules.
According to the FDA, more than 80 percent of Americans are not eating the correct amounts of vegetables, fruit and dairy and are consuming high amounts of sugars, saturated fats and sodium.
This new rule advances the FDA’s commitment to the consumer to help improve nutrition and dietary arrangements. It also reduces the chances of chronic disease and enhances health equity.
This new proposal comes after the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health, along with the announcement of a national plan to end hunger, enhance nutrition, promote exercise, to reduce diet related diseases and close disparity gaps by 2030.
“Nutrition is key to improving our nation’s health, healthy food can lower our risk for chronic disease,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said. “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 new proposed regulation, foods such as nuts, seeds, higher fat fish like salmon, oils and water would be eligible to have the proper labeling so consumers can see these food items are considered healthy.
To be labeled “healthy” a food must have:
- A certain amount of food from at least one of the food groups or subgroups such as the fruit group, the vegetable group and the dairy group recommended by the Dietary Standards.
- Particular constraints for certain nutrients, such as saturated fat, sodium and added sugars. The maximum for the limits is based on a percent of the Daily Value for the nutrient and varies depending on the food and food group. The limit for sodium is 10 percent of the DV per serving. The serving size is 230 milligrams per serving.
The FDA gives an example using cereal to show the standards a food should have.
A cereal ought to contain ¾ ounces of whole grains. It should only contain one gram of saturated fat, 230 milligrams of sodium and 2.5 grams of sugars.
“Healthy eating patterns are associated with improved health, yet most people’s eating patterns do not align with current dietary recommendations, in addition to today’s action, we continue to advance a number of FDA initiatives and explore new ways to coordinate, leverage and amplify important work going on across the nutrition ecosystem to help improve people’s diets and make a profound impact on the health of current and future generations,” said Susan Mayne, director of the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.
This new regulation is being designed to encourage manufacturers to use more healthy ingredients in their products such as more vegetables or whole grains. These companies could also develop more products fit to the new definition, FDA notes, adding that it is developing new symbol to put on food products so the consumer will know the product has been deemed healthy by the FDA.
The White House and the FDA are working in partnership with one another to empower the consumer make healthy food choices at the grocery store. Both organizations hope to reduce sodium levels in food, provide nutrition information to the consumer and providing manufacturers with dietary assistance.
Upcoming plans include:
- Developing a front-of-package labeling method.
- Making nutrition information more accessible when grocery shopping online.
- Lowering the sodium content of food in the food supply.
- Hosting a public summit concerning future steps the federal government could take to assist lowering added sugar intake.
- Issuing education efforts to give parents and caretakers the ability to see the newest food and health recommendations from the FDA.
The American Egg Board celebrated this initiative as a big accomplishment. The FDA deemed an egg as a “healthy food” because of the new definition. The group stated that after the 90-day comment phase and the details had been finalized, eggs could start being marketing as a healthy food.
The organization highlighted how eggs contain the nutrients choline, vitamin D and fatty acids which is considered healthy for a person. Choline is good for the brain and nervous system.
“Eggs are a ‘healthy food,’ according to (this) new proposed definition released … by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration,” Emily Metz, AEB president and CEO, said in a statement. “This proposed definition is more good news for egg lovers as it affirms the science showing that eggs are an all-around nutrient powerhouse, supplying nutrients such as choline, vitamin D, and essential fatty acids that are necessary for healthy living.
“Families can always count on America’s egg farmers to provide the delicious and nutritious eggs that they love. We’re excited to be part of the conversation about how Americans can build healthy diets.”
The FDA also removed the concern about cholesterol because they found there is no link between eating eggs and cardiovascular illnesses. Eggs are good for infants, toddlers, expectant mothers and lactating mothers.
The National Chicken Council is urging the FDA to consider chicken a “healthy food.” The NCC states that chicken is very protein dense. It also provides nutrients such as iron, zinc and B-12.
The FDA is planning to divide protein foods into subgroups:
- Game meats
- Beans, peas, lentils and soy foods
- Nuts and seeds
These subgroups do not include the regular animal food sources like chicken whose labeling is regulated by the USDA.
The FDA acknowledged that the new proposed definition of healthy is based on the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The guidelines say lean meats, such as chicken can be fixed into any healthy eating plan. Chicken is not included in the FDA’s proposed definition of healthy.
NCC has submitted comments to the Biden administration noting the safety, nutrition and value of chicken, and how it can be a vital part of reducing hunger.
In its comments, NCC said, “Lean meats like chicken can help close the protein gap among Americans who struggle with food and nutrient insecurity, which particularly impacts women, children, and older adults who have greater need for nutrient-dense animal-sourced foods to support healthy diets. We believe that every American deserves increased access to safe, wholesome, planet-friendly, and nutritious foods like chicken.”