The U.S. Food and Drug Administration wants to change the rules for using the tags “healthy” and “natural” for processed foods because of current standards, established in 1993, are outdated. Professionals opinion about healthy fat have changed but because the rules have not, many unhealthy processed foods claim they are by printing on the package “healthy.”
The FDA started its mission to change the generic terms months ago, but they were only focusing on the word “natural.” But Tuesday the administration announced it would also redefine the term “healthy.”
The problem with the tags “natural” and “healthy” is that the government does not regulate it and companies have the freedom to put the word on processed foods. Douglas Balentine, director of the FDA’s Office of Nutrition and Food Labeling, said in a statement that many people do not have the time to review the nutrition details of products because most purchase decisions are made within three to five seconds. Thus, most Americans trust when the product says “natural” or “healthy.”
The idea to use a single word to described an essential characteristic of the product is to help people to identify what they want to buy quickly. But the current definitions are deceiving Americans that trust on the description of the product.
“Healthy” became part of the debate in April and it is now official on the FDA’s agenda since Tuesday. The company Kind received a warning letter from the FDA for saying that their snack bars are healthy when they contain a lot of fat. Kind filed a petition for the administration to review its standards because their bars have natural fat -which is healthy- because they use peanuts in their products and not trans fats, which truly are unhealthy.
Reps praised the move to update nutrition labels. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.). Democrats stated that the FDA decision to adjust the standards is a way to give consistency and clarity to food labeling. They also said they would work with the administration to make sure consumers can rely on the final definition of “healthy.”
Changing labels hoping to adapt to what Americans think it is healthy
Balentine said that the public health recommendations state the new focus is on the type of fat and not in its quantity. The recommendations also point out added sugars and the FDA said consumers would soon see them on the New Nutrition Facts label. Another thing the administration will consider are nutrients that Americans are not consuming enough, such as vitamin D and potassium.
On Tuesday the FDA also revealed their process to collect public comments on how they should define “healthy,” as the administration did with the word “natural” earlier this year. Individuals, advocacy organizations, some companies, and trade groups sent over 5 thousand comments, and the same responses are hoped for the new survey.
Balentine said in the news release that the FDA wants to give consumers the best tools and information about the foods they purchase to get to improve public health. He also said the administration would encourage companies to change their products to make them a better option for the American people.
Source: U.S. News