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FDA Asks Public For Help In Defining What Is ‘Healthy’ In Food

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The US Food and Drug Administration is conducting a public poll on what customers think is ‘healthy’ on a food label. The agency opened the process on Tuesday for redefining how these labels can best be used, NBC News reports.

According to the agency, the redefinition seeks to “provide consumers with information and tools to enable them to easily and quickly make food choices consistent with public health recommendations and to encourage the development of healthier foods by the industry.”

Douglas Balentine of the FDA wrote that since the concept of nutrition has changed, the term ‘healthy’ should likewise be updated. The intent is to encourage food manufacturers to produce healthier food options. He says,

As a first step, we are asking for public input on a range of questions about what ‘healthy’ should mean from a nutrition perspective and how consumers understand and use ‘healthy’ food label claims.

These changes come about on the heels of an FDA argument with the manufacturers of Kind snacks. The FDA issued a warning to Kind in 2015, stating that its fruit and nut bars could not be labeled healthy because they contained plenty of saturated fat and there was no scientific evidence to back Kind’s claim of antioxidant ingredients in their products.

Kind replied by asking the FDA to take a closer look at their definition of healthy on food labels, pointing out that some of the restrictions make no sense. The food company argued that the current regulations were over 20 years old and included foods like nuts, avocados, and salmon on its non-healthy list while classifying things like low-fat toaster pastries as healthy.

The ‘Nutrition Facts’ label on food packaging has recently been reworked as well, but Balentine says this isn’t enough sometimes. There are many terms on food packages that can often be misleading or misconstrued. In addition, many consumers don’t have the time to study the nutritional information on the things they buy, Balentine says, making the need for transparency even more necessary.

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