The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) submitted comments yesterday encouraging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to expand the criteria for use of the term "healthy" beyond nutrient content claims to include claims for other foods, including herbs, spices and teas, that promote "healthy eating patterns" as recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. AHPA also encouraged FDA to prioritize efforts to amend the current regulation that is inconsistent with the latest nutrition research, and expressed support for FDA's current policy to exercise enforcement discretion until the current "healthy" regulation is updated.
AHPA requested that consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2015-2020) FDA allow and encourage "healthy" labeling of the broader range of foods recommended as part of a "healthy eating pattern," with additional criteria necessary to ensure that a "healthy" claim is truthful and nonmisleading. AHPA's request is supported by the 2015 Scientific Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee that serves as the basis for the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The report encourages healthy dietary patterns low in saturated fat, added sugars, and sodium and recommends that "emphasis should also be placed on replacement and shifts in food intake and eating patterns" instead of focusing purely on reduction.
"Healthy options to reduce sodium intake could allow herb and spice blends or prepared foods that substitute herbs and spices for salt to bear a claim such as 'a healthy alternative to salt,'" AHPA's comments state. "The ability to make such claims might provide encouragement for food producers to reduce the sodium content in their products and would assist companies that market herbs and spices to help consumers learn more about these as salt substitutes."
Similarly, AHPA suggests that unsweetened teas, including black, green and herbal teas, are a legitimate alternative to sugar-sweetened beverages and companies that market teas would be motivated to provide healthier options if regulations allowed a "healthy" claim, such as "unsweetened tea is part of a healthy diet."
"The current regulation reflects a dated view of nutrition science that is no longer considered to be in the best health interests of Americans," said AHPA President Michael McGuffin. "A variety of stakeholders from academia and industry, as well as consumers, have requested FDA update additional nutrition labeling regulations for nutrient content and health claims, including the implied nutrient content claim 'healthy.'"
AHPA's comments were in response to FDA's request for comments and information on use of the term "healthy," generally, and as a nutrient content claim in the context of food labeling and other questions raised by FDA.