Update: FDA will “Exercise Discretion” with Healthy Food Labeling

In All, Food Products, General by Keri Szejda

Two months ago, CRIS Bits reported that the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) announced plans to update  its regulatory guidelines concerning nutrient content claims, including guidelines for the use of the word, “healthy”.

One of the major reasons for the FDA regulatory update was so that the rules better reflect current nutrition standards. Fat – which was quite vilified in the past – is now viewed in a more nuanced way. Rather than keeping total fat to a minimum, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise us to focus on eating “healthy” fats (monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids) and to avoid “unhealthy” fats (saturated fat and trans fat).

Today the FDA announced publication of a new guidance document to industry titled, “Use of the Term ‘Healthy’ in the Labeling of Human Food Products: Guidance for Industry.”

In the document, the FDA informed industry of its intent to exercise “enforcement discretion” regarding the use of the term “healthy”. As the FDA works to update its rules, the agency is soliciting feedback. The public comment period opens tomorrow, September 28.

Under current rule, foods that don’t meet “low fat” standards – regardless of the type of fat – can’t be labeled as “healthy”. Now, if the fat profile is predominantly mono and polyunsaturated fats, the FDA says it will exercise discretion. This effectively gives a green light for food companies to label their products as “healthy” even if they are high in fat – so long as we’re talking about healthy fat.

So if your energy bar is giving you lots of energy from healthy stuff like walnuts, flaxseeds, and olive oil, the FDA says a-okay, we’ll look the other way.

Stay tuned for more updates on “healthy” labeling!