Until this week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did not allow almonds to be called "healthy" on food labels, due to the agency's regulatory definition of the term that considered foods' total fat rather than distinguishing among different types of fat.
Now in light of recommendations from the newest Dietary Guidelines for Americans that reflect updated nutrition research, FDA has announced it has begun a process to redefine the term "healthy" as it applies to labeling food products. It also issued a guidance document stating it does not intend to enforce the regulatory requirements for products that use the term if certain criteria are met. The criteria are that:
- Foods must meet the "low fat" requirement (<3 g fat per serving) or total fat per serving must be primarily comprised of mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Mono- and polyunsaturated fat content must be declared on the Nutrition Facts Panel.
- Foods must contain at least 10% of the Daily Value for vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron, protein, fiber, potassium or vitamin D. If using potassium or vitamin D to substantiate, the amount per serving must be declared on the label.
Almonds meet FDA's new guidance as they contain predominantly "good" monounsaturated fats and provide 14 percent of the Daily Value for fiber. A one-ounce serving of almonds contains 14 grams of total fat, of which 9 grams are monounsaturated fat and 3.5 grams are polyunsaturated fat (another "good" type of fat), along with 4 grams of fiber.
FDA said in its September 27 announcement that the purpose of revising the "healthy" criteria is to bring the use of the claim more in line with updated Nutrition Fact Label and the nutrition science reflected in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Healthy dietary patterns now focus on food groups, the type of fat rather than the total amount of fat consumed, and now address added sugars in the diet, it said. Nutrients of public health concern – meaning nutrients for which most consumers don't meet recommendations -- have also changed.
With these steps, the agency said it hopes to provide consumers with information and tools to enable them to easily and quickly make food choices consistent with public health recommendations, as well as to provide current guidance to the food industry to help it focus on foods and ingredients that support healthy dietary patterns.
Please visit the Almond Board of California blog to follow the Almond Board's updates on this process.