FDA to release new front-of-package labeling guidance for US food manufacturers

The Food and Drug Administration announced new rules Wednesday for nutrition labels that can go on the front of food packages to indicate they are “salts.”

Under the proposal, manufacturers can label their products as “healthy” if they contain a significant amount of foods from at least one of the food groups or subgroups (such as fruits, vegetables or dairy) recommended by the Dietary Guidelines. They must also meet specific limits for certain nutrients, such as saturated fat, sodium and added sugars. For example, a cereal would have to contain three-quarters of an ounce of whole grains and no more than 1 gram of saturated fat, 230 milligrams of sodium and 2.5 grams of added sugars per serving for a food manufacturer to use the word “healthy”. ” on the label.

The labels aim to help consumers more easily navigate nutrition labels and make better choices at the grocery store. The proposed rule would align the definition of the “healthy” claim with current nutrition science, the updated Nutrition Facts label and the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the FDA said.

The agency is also developing a symbol that companies can voluntarily use to label food products that meet federal guidelines for the term “healthy.”

The announcement comes ahead of Wednesday’s White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health. The conference is the first of its kind since 1969, when a summit organized by President Richard M. Nixon’s administration led to major expansions of food stamps, school lunches and other programs that ‘has attributed the reduction of hunger at the national level and a critical security. net during the pandemic.

Once complete, the FDA’s new system will “communicate nutrition information quickly and easily” using tools such as “star ratings or traffic light schemes to promote equitable access to nutrition information and healthier choices,” it said. said the White House in a statement this week. The system “may also push industry to reformulate their products to be healthier,” he said.

Obesity among 5- to 11-year-olds increases during pandemic

Six out of 10 American adults have lifestyle-related chronic diseases, often stemming from obesity and poor diet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC says these diseases are the leading cause of death and disability and a major driver of the nation’s $4.1 trillion in annual health care costs.

And the obesity epidemic is not moving in the right direction: studies show that obesity, especially among children, increased significantly during the pandemic, with the biggest change among 5- to 11-year-olds, who gained an average of more than five pounds. Before the pandemic, about 36 percent of children ages 5 to 11 were considered overweight or obese; during the pandemic, which increased to 45.7%.

In In some Latin American countries, governments have instituted stricter food labeling laws, cracking down on sugary drinks and ultra-processed foods in an effort to escape the obesity epidemic that has gripped the United States. In Chile, for example, foods high in added sugar, saturated fat, calories and added sodium must display black stop signs. on the front of their packages. Nothing with black stop signs can be sold or promoted in schools or featured in TV commercials aimed at children.

Latin America’s war on obesity could be a model for the US

Groups like the Center for Science in the Public Interest have long called on the FDA to adopt mandatory, standardized, evidence-based front-of-package labeling. They say front-of-pack nutrition labeling will reach more consumers than “Nutrition Facts” on the back of packages, helping them make more beneficial food choices quickly and spurring companies to reformulate products in a healthier direction. . According to nutrition experts, Americans generally consume too much sodium, added sugars and saturated fat in their packaged foods, so being able to quickly identify foods that are high or low in these nutrients would be a significant public health benefit. .

The Biden administration has endorsed the FDA’s efforts to crack down on sodium intake, reinforcing the agency’s announcement last year that it would require food companies and restaurants to reduce the sodium in the foods they make around of 12 percent over the next 2 1/2 years. In a parallel effort, the administration is suggesting that the FDA reduce Americans’ sugar consumption “including possible voluntary targets” for food manufacturers’ sugar content.

The new labeling language is sure to be controversial among food manufacturers who have tried to capitalize on Americans’ interest in healthier foods.

“The FDA’s definition of ‘healthy’ can only be successful if it is clear and consistent to manufacturers and understood by consumers,” Roberta Wagner, spokeswoman for the industry organization Consumer Brands Association, said Tuesday.

But what constitutes a “healthy” food is a thorny issue among nutrition experts. Foods high in what many nutrition scientists call “good fats,” such as almonds or avocados, would be considered “unhealthy,” while artificially sweetened fruit snacks or low-fat, sweetened yogurts might be considered ” healthy”?

How the Trump administration limited the scope of the USDA’s 2020 Dietary Guidelines

The FDA began a public process to update the “healthy” nutrient content statement for food labeling in 2016. But critics have said the dietary guidelines have often not focused on the right things. During the Trump administration, for example, the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Committee it was forbidden to consider the health effects of consuming red meat, ultra-processed foods and sodium.

Federal nutrition guidance has seen some major pendulum swings. For many years, the recommendations were based on an intuitive, but incorrect, thought: Eating fat makes us fat. Consuming large amounts of cholesterol gives us high cholesterol.

The newer guidelines emphasize eating a plant-based diet, which includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. They maintain a hard line on limiting salt and saturated fat intake, but state simply that cholesterol is “not a nutrient of concern,” removing the long-standing 300-milligram-per-day limit.

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