The Food and Drug Administration has proposed changing the definition of the “healthy” claim on packaging to help consumers make better food choices.

Kate Bertrand Connolly, Freelance Writer

November 8, 2022

4 Min Read
Image courtesy of Petr Nutil / Alamy Stock Vector

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), through a proposed rule, is updating criteria for food and beverage companies’ use of “healthy” as a nutrient-content claim on their packaging. The current definition of “healthy” dates to 1994.

The agency aims to ensure the revised definition is consistent with current nutrition science, federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025, and the updated Nutrition Facts label.

The FDA relied on various sources of current nutrition science to develop the updated “healthy” claim, including the “Scientific Report of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee” and numerous reports from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The latter include a consensus study report on the “Dietary References Intakes for Sodium and Potassium.”

According to the FDA, more than 80% of people in the United States don’t eat enough fruit, vegetables, and dairy. Most also consume too much saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars.

“Current dietary guidelines focus on healthy dietary patterns and the food groups that comprise them, the type of fat in the diet rather than the total amount of fat consumed, and the amount of added sugars in the diet,” an FDA spokesperson says.

“Under the proposed, updated ‘healthy’ definition, a food product would need to contain a certain amount of food from at least one of the food groups or subgroups [such as fruit or dairy] recommended by the Dietary Guidelines,” the spokesperson adds. In addition, “a food product would need to adhere to limits for the following nutrients: saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars.”

The new limits, which are based on a percentage of the Daily Value for the nutrient, vary by food and food group. The limit for sodium is 10% of the Daily Value per serving, or 230 mg.

Under current regulations, food packaging may display the “healthy” claim if the product adheres to limits for specific nutrients, including total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium and provides at least 10% of the Daily Value for one or more of the following nutrients: vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron, protein, and fiber. 

The updated “healthy” claim definition takes into account all the nutrients in different food groups and how they work together to create healthy dietary patterns. Under the proposed definition, more foods that are recommended by the Dietary Guidelines and that are part of a healthy dietary pattern would be eligible to use the “healthy” claim on their packaging. These foods include nuts and seeds; higher-fat fish, such as salmon; certain oils; and water. 

The FDA estimates that about 12% of packaged foods would meet the proposed definition of “healthy” and thus qualify to use the claim on-pack. Many will likely feature the claim on the front of their packaging.

The FDA estimates that about 12% of packaged foods would meet the proposed definition of “healthy” and thus qualify to use the claim on-pack. Many will likely feature the claim on the front of their packaging.


The agency “expects to see the ‘healthy’ claim on the front of food packages, although there is no proposed requirement that it be located there,” the FDA spokesperson says.


White House National Strategy is one driver.

The FDA’s proposed rule is part of the White House National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, which aims to end hunger, improve nutrition, encourage physical activity, stem diet-related diseases, and close disparity gaps by 2030. 

The national strategy’s five pillars are:

• Improving food access and affordability.
• Integrating nutrition and health.
• Empowering all consumers to make and have access to healthy choices.
• Supporting physical activity for all.
• Enhancing nutrition and food security research.

Developing a front-of-package (FOP) labeling system to quickly and easily communicate nutrition information is also part of the national strategy.

The FDA recently completed a literature review on FOP labeling, which will inform development of a symbol to represent the “healthy” claim. The claim itself and the symbol will help consumers more easily identify foods that are part of a healthy eating pattern, which is particularly helpful for busy shoppers and those lacking nutrition knowledge.


About the Author(s)

Kate Bertrand Connolly

Freelance Writer

Kate Bertrand Connolly has been covering innovations, trends, and technologies in packaging, branding, and business since 1981.

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