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When It Comes to Defining “Healthy,” It’s Personal

Mar 22, 2017
David Portalatin, Vice President, Industry Analyst ;
Food Consumption

 The U.S. Food and Drug Administration started a public process to redefine the “healthy” nutrient content claim for food labeling. They want to make sure the definition for the “healthy” labeling claim stays up-to-date. For example, public health recommendations now focus on various thresholds fat, added sugars, or nutrients that consumers aren’t getting enough of, like vitamin D and calcium.

Recently I was part of an FDA-hosted panel that was part of a public forum to discuss the definitions of “healthy.” Food companies, lobbyists, nutritionist, and even a grammarian who wanted the FDA to consider the grammatically correct term “healthful” instead of “healthy,” were among the hundreds of individuals and organizations who provided comment.  All commented with the good intention of getting consumers to eat “healthy”… or should I say healthful.

Here’s what we know with our 30-plus years of tracking all aspects of how consumers eat: consumers today define “healthy” to mean fresh, authentic, and real. It’s clear to them that an apple is healthy.  If the food is processed, they want transparency, meaning they want to know the makeup of the food, including the positive attributes of the food that they may desire in their diet. They want all of the necessary information to decide what they will eat and what they will not. In other words, the definition of “healthy” is personal.

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