Consumers are always looking for the newest, trendiest healthy food option, and typically turn to friends, the news, what’s on the internet, or what the Food and Drug Administration has deemed healthy on their product labels.
Now, the FDA is asking the same favour from the public.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is asking Americans to illuminate their definition of the meaning ‘healthy’ found on food labels. The agency is looking to overhaul the nutritional claims on their food labels, and is looking to the American public for a change.
The approach is part of a bigger picture by the FDA: to help consumers quickly pick out healthy food choices, while encouraging the food industry to create healthier alternatives.
“We know that many consumers use the Nutrition Facts label, especially when they are buying a food for the first time,” Douglas Balentine, director of the FDA’s Office of Nutrition and Food Labeling, said in an agency news release.
“Often, there are also a lot of other terms on food packages, such as ‘healthy,’ ‘low in fat,’ or ‘good source,'” he added. “We also know that many just don’t have the time to consider the details of nutrition information on every package they purchase. In fact, most purchase decisions are made quickly, within three to five seconds.”
The FDA has also begun creating criteria or terms for a new definition of ‘healthy’ on labels, though they’ve admitted they’re not entirely sure where to start.
“That’s why we’re looking at how we define the claim ‘healthy.’ Companies can use this and other claims on the front of packages of foods that meet certain criteria to help consumers quickly identify nutritious choices,” Balentine continued.
“As a first step, we are asking for public input on a range of questions about what ‘healthy’ should mean from a nutrition perspective, and how consumers understand and use ‘healthy’ food label claims.”
Despite the FDA’s efforts to clarify and improve what it means to be ‘healthy’ to boost the health of the public, there are still skeptics against foods with labels in general. They feel regardless of what the label says, most foods that come with them are processed in some fashion.
Sharon Zarabi directs the bariatric program at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
“While it is great that the FDA is working on modifying the Nutrition Facts label to make it easier for consumers to choose ‘healthier’ options, we must not deny the fact that healthy comes from the earth. Most foods that have a label are processed and enriched with vitamins and minerals,” says Sharon Zarabi, director of the bariatric program at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
Zarabi says to simply eat foods that don’t come with labels – fruits, veggies, nuts, lean protein sources, for example.
“These are the healthy foods we should be encouraging in our diet as opposed to evaluating how healthy ‘baked’ potato chips and fat-free ice cream can be,” she said.