FDA Requests Comment on Proposed Studies Exploring Use of ‘Healthy’ Symbols on Food Labels

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced Thursday that it will conduct research on food label symbols that indicate the nutritiousness of a product as another step in its efforts to update the definition of “healthy” as used on product labels. The agency is seeking public comment on its proposed study via the Federal Register by July 6.

The proposed studies, entitled “Quantitative Research on a Voluntary Symbol Depicting the Nutrient Content Claim ‘Healthy’ on Packaged Foods,” seek to explore consumer responses to potential front-of-package (FOP) symbols that manufacturers would have to option to place on labels to indicate the nutrient content claim of “healthy,” according to the agency’s procedural notice. The exploration would include an experimental study and two surveys.

“The studies are part of our continuing effort to enable consumers to make informed dietary choices and construct healthful diets,” according to the FDA. “We intend to use the results to inform our continued exploration of a symbol manufacturers could voluntarily use to represent the nutrient content claim ‘healthy’ on the food label.”

The proposal is part of a broader attempt by the FDA, called the Nutrition Innovation Strategy, to find “new ways to reduce the burden of chronic disease through improved nutrition.” Nutrient content claims may help consumers make the most informed decisions for their particular dietary needs and overall improve the nutrition of the public, the FDA noted.

In soliciting public comment, the FDA wants to gain insight on “(1) (w)hether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of FDA’s functions, including whether the information will have practical utility; (2) the accuracy of FDA’s estimate of the burden of the proposed collection of information, including the validity of the methodology and assumptions used; (3) ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and (4) ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on respondents,” according to the notice.