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US to re-evaluate definition of 'healthy' food

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The US Food and Drug Administration is re-thinking how it defines “healthy”, which could eventually see changes in the marketing of some foods.

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In light of developing research, the FDA said on Tuesday it is an “opportune time to re-evaluate the regulations concerning nutrition content claims” generally, including the term healthy.

The agency plans to solicit public comment on the matter in the near future, said Lauren Kotwicki, an FDA representative.

The FDA only allows use of the term healthy on packaging when products meet certain nutrient criteria, which largely concern limited levels of fat, cholesterol and sodium.

The issue arose last year after the FDA sent a warning letter to the maker of Kind fruit-and-nut bars saying the company’s products shouldn’t be labelled as healthy because of their saturated fat levels.

Kind asked for FDA to consider the definition, saying the fat in its bars comes from nuts, and the way the term is currently applied means avocados and salmon aren’t labelled healthy, while fat-free puddings and sugary cereals are.

The FDA told Kind last month that it did not object to the company’s use of the term “healthy and tasty” on its bar wrappers.

The FDA said it’s allowing use of the phrase framed as a “corporate philosophy”, rather than as a nutrient content claim.

The move to rethink healthy comes as dietary trends shift, with more people concerned about sugar and questioning low-fat or low-calorie diets.

Any change in the term’s regulatory definition could take years.

The FDA’s final rule on gluten-free labelling, for instance, took more than six years to complete.

On Tuesday the FDA noted foods that don’t meet all current regulatory criteria for the term healthy are not necessarily unhealthy.

Last month, the House of Representatives said in a report that it expects the FDA to amend its regulation for healthy claims to be based on scientific agreement.

AP

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