FDA Requests Public Input To Help Redefine ‘Healthy’ Claim On Our Food Labels?
The Federal Food and Drug Administration ("FDA") regulates food sold in the United States, including all processed foods such as cereals, snacks, and beverages. The FDA oversees food content and food labeling.
The health food industry has increased dramatically in the past 20 years with growing consumer demand for natural products. The FDA regulates the term ‘healthy’ and its derivatives. The term has a specific meaning for particular ingredient types found in food.
Several food manufacturers place the term ‘healthy’ on their products even though the nutrient content claim might not belong there. Companies have been sued for labeling cereal, cereal bars, and chips as ‘healthy.’ However, sugar content is not currently part of the regulations pertaining to the term ‘healthy.’ Instead, the current FDA regulations prevent food manufacturers from labeling a product ‘healthy’ that contains certain amounts of fat, cholesterol or sodium. The FDA realizes that added sugars and other ingredients and nutrients need to be included within the FDA regulations concerning the implied nutrient content claim ‘healthy.’ As part of the FDA’s ongoing efforts to advise the American public about the food they buy and consume, the FDA has invited the public to comment on the use of the term ‘healthy’ in the labeling of human food products. The comment period began on September 28, 2016 and closes January 26, 2017. http://www.fda.gov/food/guidanceregulation/guidancedocumentsregulatoryinformation/labelingnutrition/ucm520695.htm.
The public can submit comments electronically through the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov to docket folder FDA-2016-D-2335 or through paper submissions to the Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, Rm. 1061, Rockville, MD 20852; identify same docket folder. To date, there are more than 450 comments from consumers, food manufacturers and other organizations. The FDA has indicated that it is particularly interested in receiving comments about several different topics related to the term ‘healthy,’ including but not limited to: feedback on how the term is used to be false or misleading; if it should remain as a nutrient content claim; what other criteria should be included in the ‘healthy’ definition, if any; what food types should be permitted to use the term ‘healthy;’ and what other terms might be better to describe foods that promote good eating habits (e.g., ‘nutritious’). See here for the full list of topics at 21 CFR Part 101, Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 188 / Wednesday, September 28, 2016 / Proposed Rules – II. Other Issues for Consideration (66564-65).
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Barbara Rohr is a partner in Faruqi & Faruqi’s Los Angeles office and focuses her practice on complex civil litigation.