On September 29, 2022, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a proposed rule to update the definition for the implied nutrient content claim “healthy”, which was set in 1994.

This rule, if approved, will revise the requirements for when the term “healthy” can be used as an implied claim in food labeling.

Nuts, seeds, avocados and salmon are some examples of foods currently ineligible to bear the “healthy” claim based on the existing regulatory definition, but that would qualify under the proposed definition.

The FDA is proposing the definition for “healthy” to be consistent with current nutrition science and Federal dietary guidance, especially the latest edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. According to the Guidelines, a healthy dietary pattern incorporates protein foods, including nuts, and vegetable oils, such as nuts. Evidence shows that common characteristics of dietary patterns associated with positive health outcomes include relatively higher intake of vegetables, fruits, legumes and nuts, among other foods. Also, unsalted nuts are identified as nutrient-dense foods.

The proposed updated definition of “healthy” focuses on ensuring that nutrient-dense foods that help consumers to build a diet consistent with current dietary recommendations can qualify to bear the claim. The FDA proposes that the “healthy” regulation reflects the importance of the overall nutrient content of foods that build dietary patterns rather than individual nutrients in isolation, although they keep certain nutrients to limit, namely saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars.

The FDA is proposing adjustments to the baseline limit for saturated fat, based on specific nutrient considerations associated with different food groups and subgroups. In particular, the FDA proposes that the saturated fat content of nuts does not contribute toward the overall saturated fat limit for nut products, which would be the baseline value of ≤5% DV (daily value) per RACC (Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed). Unsalted nuts are considered nutrient-dense protein foods due to their nutrient content —they provide, for instance, important nutrients such as unsaturated fats and vitamin E. Mono- and polyunsaturated fats make up the majority of their fat profile, and numerous studies have found that replacing other sources of saturated fat in the diet with nuts has beneficial effects on cardiovascular disease risk.

The final date for comments is December 28, 2022.

*POST-EDIT* The new final date for comments is February 16, 2023.

On the other hand, the FDA is conducting research on a symbol that the industry can voluntarily use to label food products that meet the proposed “healthy” definition.

Proposed Rule, Food Labeling: Nutrient Content Claims; Definition of Term “Healthy”

Use of the Term Healthy on Food Labeling

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