Reader: FDA needs help defining word ‘healthy’

meat label

Dear Editor:

Some have become aware of a Food and Drug Administration public comment period that comes to an end on Feb. 16, concerning “Food Labeling: Nutrient Content Claims; Definition of the Term ‘Healthy'” (Proposed Rule). 

The 35-page proposed rule is a difficult read but an important one for those who want to know what food the government believes merits the FDA “healthy” designation and what foods, by omission, the government deems unhealthy. One important red flag, among many, is the elimination of the meat and poultry food group. The replacement food group is simply named “protein.”

The proposed rule limits saturated fat to 1 gram per serving for meat, making it nearly impossible for farm-raised meat, even grass-fed, to qualify for the “healthy” designation. Some other foods can have two to four times as much saturated fat per serving as the limit for meat and still be deemed “healthy.” 

An example of the mindset behind FDA’s proposed rule is that the often over-processed plant-based oils are qualified to be labeled “healthy” but not butter. The proposed rule acknowledges that 90% of Americans do not consume enough dairy but remains steadfast in declaring that only fat-free or low-fat dairy products are “healthy.” The FDA now includes soy beverages and soy yogurt alternatives in the dairy classification and seems open to the possibility that more plant-based products could be added to the dairy classification in a “special circumstance.” 

This is an obvious misclassification by our government. The proposed rule is biased against animal agriculture, while seemingly encouraging “product innovation” and “industry innovation” in the creation of food that can be labeled as “healthy.” 

Anyone concerned about food choices and the availability of real food in the future needs to send a comment to the FDA by Feb. 16. For information on the proposed rule and how to submit a comment, and to read comments that were already posted, visit The FDA needs to hear from you.

Gerald Carlin
Chairman of Policy Development, Farm Women United


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