April 07, 2023

New Nutrition Business Quotes Todd Harrison on the FDA’s Effort to Redefine the Term “Healthy”

2 min

Venable partner Todd Harrison was quoted in New Nutrition Business on the FDA’s redefinition of the term “healthy.”

According to the article, the FDA is moving ahead with a new plan to allow the word “healthy” on the front of food packages whose contents meet a new definition that promotes nutrient-dense foods such as nuts and fish and, especially, discourages the inclusion of added sugar, saturated fats, and salt. The agency said its approach is aimed at modernizing thinking about nutrition and the U.S. diet and reducing the growing burden of diet-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes. 

The FDA previously defined “healthy” in 1994 amid a push to limit fats, cholesterol, and sodium and boost consumer intake of some vitamins and minerals, protein, and fiber.  The agency updated the guidelines in 2016 to allow for some foods that contained more total fat, potassium, and vitamin D.  However, in this definition, emphasis on eliminating fats was a problem, especially as nutritionists came to redefine the variegated roles of fat in the diet.  “The worst nutrient-content claim ever permitted was the term ‘low in fat,'” said Harrison. “Everyone took fat out of their products, put a bunch of carbs into it, and diabetes and pre-diabetes rates increased dramatically.” 

The FDA released its new "healthy" labeling proposal in September 2021, in conjunction with the first White House Council on Nutrition. Some experts welcomed the specific proposed changes, while other changes were criticized. For example, “honey would be ‘added sugar,’ but it has lots of health benefits,” said Harrison. “On the flip side, is orange juice healthy? It’s just liquid sugar, but it’s not added sugar.  People would be making decisions on added sugar when they should be looking at the overall sugar content of the product,” said Harrison.