The Union of Concerned Scientists has petitioned FDA to establish “disqualifying levels” of added sugars that would prohibit use of “healthy” labeling. (subscription to Law 360 required)

  • “Healthy” claims on foods continue to trend as a perennial hot topic in the food industry.  By way of background, FDA regulations prescribe qualifying criteria for foods to bear the claim that they are “healthy” (including related terms) (21 CFR 101.65(d)).  Among other factors, a “healthy” food generally must contain 3 grams or less of total fat per serving and 1 gram or less of saturated fat per serving.  (Fish and meat are required to contain 5 grams or less of total fat per serving and 2 grams or less of saturated fat per serving).  As previously covered on this blog, FDA received a Citizen Petition last December requesting that the Agency revisit the definition of “healthy” — which has not changed since 1994 — to take into account present-day scientific understanding about the health benefits of many nutrient-dense foods.  More recently, this past fall, FDA requested comments to help inform its decision-making as to whether the term “healthy” should be redefined. The Agency is accepting comments on this issue through April 26, 2017.
  • In the midst of all this “healthy” activity, on January 27, 2017, FDA received a Citizen Petition from the Union of Concerned Scientists urging the FDA to establish “disqualifying levels” of added sugars that would render a product ineligible to use labeling or advertising with “healthy” claims.  At the same time, however, the petition does not set forth a recommended “disqualifying level” for added sugars.
  • It is unclear whether FDA will ultimately set a “disqualifying level” for added sugars as part of its possible redefinition of the term “healthy”. Presumably, this issue will be discussed at FDA’s upcoming March 9, 2017 public meeting on the use of the term “healthy” in food labeling which we understand will be formally announced in a forthcoming Federal Register notice.