What exactly does the word “healthy” mean when applied to food? It’s a tougher question than you think. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been trying to answer this question for years, and they’ve announced that they finally have a rough problem identification.
The origin story here is wild: T.The FDA sent a letter years ago to KIND (makers of energy bars that are basically just nuts stuck together with syrup) saying that nuts are too high in fat to be considered “healthy,” so the company might not use the word. KIND responded to this by a path Nuts are healthy, and the Food and Drug Administration is wrong. The Food and Drug Administration said: Oh. Maybe you are right. We will think about it.
That was in 2016, and the agency He was thinking about this question (with the audience and big company input) since then. The old definition of “healthy” required foods to be low in sodium, fat, and cholesterol, but dietary guidelines (published by another agency, the USDA) have changed since that original definition was codified. 2015 Guidelines Get rid of cholesterol restrictionsand guidelines for the year 2020 inserted Limit on added sugar. The new rule brings the definition of “healthy” in line with current guidelines.
Here’s how the agency describes the new proposed rule on when a company can label its food products as healthy:
Under the proposed definition, to be marked with a “healthy” claim on food packaging, products would need to:
- Contains a specific, meaningful amount of food from at least one of the food groups or subgroups (eg fruits, vegetables, dairy, etc.) recommended by the Dietary Guidelines.
- Stick to certain limits for certain nutrients, such as saturated fats, sodium, and added sugars. The threshold is based on a percentage of the Daily Value (DV) for the nutrient and varies depending on the food and food group. The limit for sodium is 10% of the DV per serving (230 milligrams per serving).
For example, cereals should contain ¾ ounces of whole grains and contain no more than 1 gram of saturated fat, 230 mg of sodium, and 2.5 grams of added sugars.
So a pack of yogurt can be “healthy” because it provides dairy, but only if it doesn’t have a lot of sugar in it. A nut mix packet can be “healthy” because it provides fruit and nuts, as long as it doesn’t have a lot of added sugar, salt, or saturated fat. Owned by the Food and Drug Administration More specific examples here.
The new rules are a bit more in line with the idea that eating patterns They are what can be healthy or unhealthy, and are to some extent supposed to de-emphasize or demonize individual foods and nutrients. The new labels mainly aim to say “You can easily fit this into a healthy diet.”
However, I would argue that the agency that allows individual foods to be labeled “healthy” undermines its argument there. (They also think of a Code that define healthy foods.) So, would the new definition be useful to consumers? I’m skeptical about that. But at least it changes with time.