The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is looking at redefining the term “healthy” on food packages to better align it with modern nutritional understanding. This means more foods that contain healthy fats such as Malaysian certified sustainable palm oil may soon have the word “healthy” on their labels.
Current FDA food regulations only allow foods that are low in fat and cholesterol to be labeled as healthy. Some categories of food must also contain at least 10 percent of the daily recommended value of calcium, iron, fiber, protein or vitamins A or C. This doesn’t align with current nutritional recommendations, including the FDA’s latest Dietary Guidelines.
Douglas Balentine, Ph.D., director of the Office of Nutrition and Food Labeling at FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition explains: “As our understanding about nutrition has evolved, we need to make sure the definition for the “healthy” labeling claim stays up to date. For instance, the most recent public health recommendations now focus on type of fat, rather than amount of fat. They focus on added sugars, which consumers will see on the new Nutrition Facts label.”
Researchers have debunked the myth that saturated fat consumption is linked to heart disease. Natural fats are now considered an essential part of a healthy diet. Added sugars, however, should be limited. Health professionals are also suggesting we consider boosting our consumption of other nutrients, such as vitamin D and palm oil’s vitamin E tocotrienols.
The FDA is also trying to remove trans fats, a harmful factory-made byproduct, from the U.S. food supply. Many food manufactures have turned to using naturally trans fat-free Malaysian certified sustainable palm oil instead. Because it’s non-GMO, Malaysian palm oil is also found in organic and natural products.
As part of the FDA’s re-evaluation of the “healthy” term, it’s asking for public input. The overall goal is to make it easier to find better-for-you products in the grocery store. “By updating the definition, we hope more companies will use the “healthy” claim as the basis for new product innovation and reformulation, providing consumers with a greater variety of “healthy” choices in the marketplace,” Balentine said.