The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced a proposed update to guidance on how the term “healthy” can be used in marketing and labeling food products. The announcement notes that current limitations on usage of the term are out of step with the dietary guidelines—for example, salmon is excluded from permitted use due to fat levels despite being considered part of the “key elements of a healthy dietary pattern.” “The existing ‘healthy’ claim has become inconsistent with the longstanding purpose of this type of implied claim to indicate that the nutrient levels in a food may help consumers maintain healthy dietary practices,” the document notes.

“The proposed framework for the updated definition of ‘healthy’ uses a food group-based approach in addition to nutrients to limit (based on the understanding that each food group contributes an array of important nutrients to the diet). The proposed, updated ‘healthy’ criteria would emphasize healthy dietary patterns by requiring that food products contain a certain amount of food from at least one of the food groups or subgroups recommended by the Dietary Guidelines, 2020-2025 in order to be labeled ‘healthy.’ The proposed regulation would also require a food product to be limited in certain nutrients, including saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars. The proposed rule would also add certain recordkeeping requirements for foods bearing the claim where compliance cannot be verified through information on the product label.”

The agency also announced that it is researching a symbol for manufacturers to use to indicate that a product has met the “healthy” standard. “Having a standardized graphic to show that a food qualifies for the ‘healthy’ claim would further support the FDA’s goal of helping consumers more easily identify packaged food products that help them build healthy eating patterns,” according to the agency’s constituent update.

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