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FDA To Redefine ‘Healthy Food,’ Seeks Public Comment

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is looking for comments from the public to redefine "healthy," a term that commonly appears on many food product labels in the country.

The FDA said on Sept. 28, that redefining "healthy" will help people a great deal in making their food choices according to public health recommendations, which could encourage food industries to produce quality products. Nutrition experts and many food companies claim that the current guidelines enacted decades ago are no longer in accordance with present dietary advice.

The agency noted that manufacturers can list products as "healthy" on food labels, in accordance with the existing regulatory definition, while new guidelines are being prepared. The issue started after Kind Snacks, the fruit-and-nut snack bars maker, petitioned FDA for the first time in relation to the federal limitations on fat content.

People look at product labels to get nutritional facts while making the decision to buy. Therefore, terms like "healthy," "good source" and "low in fat" matter a lot because they guide people in making choices accordingly.

To be deemed healthy, food products must follow appropriate and up-to-date guidelines. For example, recent public health recommendations are more concerned about the type of fat present in the food products than the amount of fat. As such, manufacturers can only claim their food products are healthy if they contain fat within the allowable limits.

When label guidelines are updated, they will have information on added sugars, the topic of one of the most recent health recommendations. The guidelines will also focus on nutrient content, particularly those that people don't get in sufficient amounts like potassium and vitamin D.

The FDA is organizing various public forums to give people an avenue for their comments, with the comment period starting on Sept. 28 and ending on Jan. 26, 2017. Additionally, comments may be left online at Regulations.gov. Those who wish to mail in their comments may also do so, but written comments have to be identified with the docket number FDA-2016-D-2335.

"While we are working on the 'healthy' claim, we also will begin evaluating other label claims to determine how they might be modernized," wrote Douglas Balentine, director of the Office of Nutrition and Food Labeling at FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

"We want to give consumers the best tools and information about the foods they choose, with the goal of improving public health," he added.

Photo: U.S. Department of Agriculture | Flickr

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