The FDA asks “What is Healthy?” & Why Dietitians Should Answer

pexels-photo-104953On Wednesday, September 28th, 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a statement that they are looking for expert opinions and information to help them to make new changes to the current rules and regulations surrounding the use of the word “healthy” on food products. The FDA is currently seeking paper and electronic submissions written by nutrition experts (like you, dietitians!) to aid them in their upcoming legislations.

This initiative was started by the FDA earlier this year, when in May, they updated the Nutritional Facts label to shed light on the connection between diet and chronic diseases (like obesity and heart disease). These improvements to the Nutritional Facts label sparked a desire to continue pushing the food industry towards creating more healthful options that are consistent with today’s scientific understanding of nutrition. Further regulations in food marketing and labeling are intended to be more useful for the consumer as well as easier to understand so that interested consumers can better follow a healthful diet.

In July, the FDA released a strategic plan for the years 2016 through 2025 where they unveiled their 10 year goal:

“Providing and supporting accurate and useful nutrition information to consumers so they can choose healthier diets consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and other evidence-based recommendations; and encouraging and facilitating new products and product reformulation to promote a healthier food supply. A key element in achieving these goals is the modernization of FDA’s regulations for nutrition-related labeling claims to reflect current science, provide information in ways that are understandable and useful to consumers, and reduce barriers and encourage industry efforts to develop and introduce healthier food products through innovation or reformulation.”

Now, this is where nutrition experts get to step in. The FDA is looking to educate themselves on what the current scientific understanding of “healthy” is. They have released a long series of questions that they are hoping health professionals will take some time to answer. Questions like:

  • Is the term “healthy” most appropriately categorized as a claim based only on nutrient content? If not, what other criteria (e.g., inclusion of foods from specific food categories) would be appropriate to consider in defining the term “healthy” for use in food labeling?

Good question. If you have an answer, consider sending it in to the FDA (they’ve taking submissions until January 2017!).  You have the chance to be a part of this change, help beckon in an era of #dietitianapproved food choices and encourage the food industry to start caring just a little bit more about what goes into the things we eat!

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