FDA Proposes Changes to Which Foods Are Labeled ‘Healthy’

On September 28, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed an updated definition for the term “healthy when it’s used on food labels, to be more consistent with the latest nutrition science and the current dietary guidelines for Americans, according to a news release.

The change to the requirements for a “healthy” label is part of a larger national strategy on hunger, nutrition, and health that aims to reduce some of the chronic diseases that are caused by eating habits and to advance health equity.

“Nutrition is key to improving our nation’s health,” said Xavier Becerra, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in the press release. “Healthy food can lower our risk for chronic disease. But too many people may not know what constitutes healthy food. FDA’s move will help educate more Americans to improve health outcomes, tackle health disparities, and save lives.”

The proposal to change the nutrition requirements for a “healthy” claim is a good move by the FDA, says Selvi Rajagopal, MD, MPH, an assistant professor of medicine and an obesity medicine specialist at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore. “Over time, nutrition research has gotten better and our understanding of disease has also gotten better. For example, we now understand that different types of fat affect the body in different ways — it’s not all good or all bad,” she says.