FDA fills whole grains labelling hole

The US Food and Drug Administration has moved to clarify labelling of whole grains by issuing draft guidelines for those foods that can carry "whole grains" claims. The guideline is intended to benefit consumers who will be "able to make dietary choices based on a term that is consistent and reliable." High whole grain percentages are favoured against terminology like "excellent" and "good" sources of whole grains.

Whole grains are defined by the FDA as those that "include cereal grains that consist of the intact, ground, cracked or flaked fruit of the grains whose principal components — the starchy endosperm, germ and bran — are present in the same relative proportions as they exist in the intact grain."

Grains that meet the criteria include barley, buckwheat, bulgur, corn, millet, rice, rye, oats, sorghum, wheat and wild rice but a caveat notes that refining can lead to the loss of dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals.

"Quick oats" may be called "whole grains" because they contain all of their bran, germ and endosperm, while other widely used food products will be excluded from the "whole grain" definition. Soybeans, sunflower seeds and arrowroot cannot be classed as "whole grains," for instance. Pizza can only be labelled as "whole grain" or "whole wheat" when its crust is made entirely from whole grain flours or whole wheat flour, respectively.

The draft guidance is part of the federal government's long-standing effort to advise consumers about healthy food choices. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that half of the grains that consumers eat should be whole grains. Currently, manufacturers can also make factual statements about whole grains on food labels such as "10 grams of whole grains" or "1/2 ounce of whole grains."

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