What is “Healthy” Food?

The 1994 FDA official definition of “healthy” is under review. With changing ideas of health and people’s eating habits, along with evolving nutrition research, this is a good time to re-evaluate regulations concerning nutrient content. Under the current definition, food can be marketed as healthy if it meets appropriate levels of fat, saturated fat, sodium, cholesterol, and beneficial nutrients. Snacks can’t have more than 3 grams of fat.

“Healthy” was defined when low fat content was the main focus and sugar was not. Current guidelines would mean Frosted Flakes and Pop Tarts could be marketed as “healthy”, but salmon and almonds could not. Ideas of “healthy fat” have changed, yet FDA regulations change very slowly. Years after lobbying for their removal, the FDA finally banned trans fats last year.

The makers of the Kind fruit-and-nut bars initiated the push to change the definition after it was sent a warning for using the term “healthy” on the packaging.  Last month, Kind made tweaks to the labels. Recently, the FDA agreed that Kind can use the phrase “healthy and tasty” in a descriptive paragraph, but not with the nutrition information.

Congress is also pushing the FDA to update the regulations and make it a priority issue. The FDA will propose updating the definition of “healthy.” Then there will be a time to ask the public and food producers to comment on what should be included in the modern definition of healthy, submitting their ideas and research. After the new definition is written and another comment period, manufacturers will have time to comply. Some may have to change ingredients and hire lawyers to keep up with changing rules. The process could take several years to complete.
Gasparro, Annie. “FDA Seeks to Redefine ‘Healthy’.” Business. The Wall Street Journal, 10 May 2016. Web. 10 May 2016.

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