nutrition facts panel

FDA attempts to contain 'healthy' claim on food packaging

The Food and Drug Administration announced a call for comments on a definition of "healthy" Tuesday.

With the upcoming changes to the Nutrition Facts panel comes another attempt at label transparency. With food packaging often boasting the word "healthy," the Food and Drug Administration is now looking to define the term. 

As a first step, the agency is asking for public input. Questions will include what "healthy" should mean from a nutrition perspective and how consumers understand and use "healthy" food claims. The FDA is also planning to hold public forums to get additional input. In an effort to ensure labeling claims stay up to date, the "healthy" definition is just one attempt to modernize label claims with the "goal of improving public health," according to the FDA website. The agency initiated a similar process last year for the term "natural."

The announcement comes after fruit-and-nut bar maker Kind Snacks began campaigning to update the definition of “healthy” after it received a warning letter from the regulator last year ordering it to stop using the term on its packaging because the bars contained too much saturated fat.

In the meantime, food manufacturers can continue to use the term "healthy" on foods that meet the current regulatory definition. The FDA is issuing a guidance document stating that it does not intend to enforce the regulatory requirements for products that use the term if certain criteria described in the guidance document are met.

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