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FDA Proposal to Redefine “Healthy” Foods Sparks Debate

Last September, the FDA released proposed changes to the definition of “healthy” when it comes to food labeling.[0] In order to be considered healthy, a food must satisfy two criteria according to the new rules.[1] First, it must contain “a certain amount of a food group like fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins, and dairy.”[2] And it must not have too much saturated fat, sodium, or added sugars.[2] The agency is also exploring color-coded labels for whether products contain too much sugar, sodium, or saturated fats.[1]

Under the FDA’s proposal, most sugary cereals, white bread, sweetened yogurts, and an array of frozen meals (including, ironically, some Healthy Choice dishes) would be disqualified as “healthy” foods.[3] Avocados, nuts and seeds, and some fatty fish like salmon, which currently don’t meet the agency’s threshold, would be able to use the label.[2] Pickles will not be considered healthy due to their high salt content.[2]

The Consumer Brands Association, which represents companies including Pepsi and Coca-Cola, is so upset by the FDA’s proposal that it is implying it may sue over allegations that the regulation infringes on food companies' First Amendment rights.[2]

Even nutritionists have noticed the strictness of the policy.[4] Marion Nestle, an emeritus professor of nutrition and public health at New York University, said: “Hardly anything would qualify, so of course food manufacturers don’t like the idea.”[5]

Healthy Choice, the frozen ready meal company, said it would not be able to meet the FDA's standards “without alienating consumers.”[5] The National Pasta Association is advocating that pasta should be considered healthy due to the fact that numerous nutritious ingredients, such as tomatoes and vegetables, are typically included in pasta dishes.[2] Chobani, a yogurt producer, also expressed apprehension, claiming that “reducing sugars to the level proposed by FDA for the ‘healthy’ claim would result in significant, deleterious effects to product quality, taste, and texture.”[5]

A nutritious portion of cereal should contain 0.75 ounces of whole grains and a maximum of 1 gram of saturated fat, 230 milligrams of sodium, and 2.5 grams of added sugars.[1] Only two grains and dairy products can be consumed.[4]

0. “Spice Trade Association lobbies FDA over healthy label” UPI News, 16 Feb. 2023,

1. “What to Know About the FDA's New Nutrition Label Rules” Gizmodo, 23 Feb. 2023,

2. “FDA Proposes New Definition of “Healthy” Foods, But Brands Are Mad” Katie Couric Media, 22 Feb. 2023,

3. “White bread, cereal no longer ‘healthy' under draft FDA rule change” Business Insider, 23 Feb. 2023,

4. “PICKLES won't be considered ‘healthy' in strict new FDA labeling rules because they're ‘too salty'” Daily Mail, 21 Feb. 2023,

5. “Cereal, pasta companies blast FDA for strict definition of ‘healthy'” STAT, 21 Feb. 2023,

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