The government is working on an official definition of the word "healthy"
This article originally appeared in Food & Wine.
The Food & Drug Administration is seeking an official definition for the word “healthy,” specifically in relation to its use on food packaging. As Stat News reports, the FDA is hosting a public meeting today in Maryland with lobbyist groups, nutritionists and consumers to discuss the term.
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Although the criteria for deciding which foods can be labeled healthy has changed over the years with new research and evolving food trends, the issue arrived at the forefront in 2015 when the FDA declared that KIND bars, makers of snackable bars and clusters, can’t display the word on their packaging. After KIND responded with a formal request to use the term, explaining that it embodies the company’s culture and philosophy, the FDA relented. Ever since, the word itself has seemed destined for further investigation.
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The FDA’s KIND decision came about at a time when labeling guidelines were struggling to keep pace with a changing food system and consumers’ increasing demand for transparency, two issues that have grown in prominence since that time. The FDA is also working to define “natural“—a word that currently has no legal meaning within the food industry, but is regularly used by products that range from iced tea to breakfast cereal.
At the center of the “healthy” debate is determining what the word should stand for, not just today, but moving forward as well. As Lindsay Moyer, a senior nutritionist for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, put it, “We’d like to find a way to use the definition of ‘healthy’ to steer people toward less processed foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, whole grains, fish, and poultry.” It should be no surprise then that two of the most vocal proponents of this new perspective are the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research & Education Foundation and the Egg Nutrition Center, both of which are lobbying for a permanent definition and approval to label their products as such.
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At a time when an increasing percentage of the population is food and nutrition-conscious, the FDA seems to be playing a constant game of catch up. “What is considered healthy is constantly changing,” said Madeline Skitzki, who identified herself to Stat as a consumer. “It is impossible for the FDA’s definition of ‘healthy” to keep pace with changes in nutritional understanding.”
[H/T Stat News]