The Institute of Food Technologists Recommends a Definition of “Healthy” to FDA

May 4, 2017

CHICAGO—In written comments submitted to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) expressed concern that labeling an individual food as ‘healthy’ can be misleading for consumers.

"It's important to be cautious in thinking of any food as 'healthy' when what really matters is the overall quality of your diet," said IFT President John Coupland, Ph.D., CFS. "However, we applaud the FDA for taking this step to improve the ways term is used and hope it can guide the development of products that support people making more informed food choices."

Since IFT is committed to advancing the science of food and its application across the global food system, it recommended that if food and beverage products bear the term ‘healthy,’ it should be used in the context of overall diet to help promote healthy eating patterns. Diets should be comprised of diverse foods and beverages across various food categories, as noted in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Further, consumers should be mindful of the amount and frequency of each of the foods and beverages they consume, in context of the overall diet. 

These comments, which were based on insights from IFT members, were in response to questions posed by the FDA on “how the term ‘healthy’ should be defined when labeling food and beverage products.” IFT members work to develop food products for the retail and foodservice industry, to support consumer’s efforts to achieve a balanced diet by following the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. IFT recommended the following:

  • A hybrid approach to defining the term ‘healthy.’ IFT suggested a food-based definition of the word ‘healthy’ which combines nutrient limits and a statement describing how the food helps achieve dietary recommendations.
  • The definition for ‘healthy’ food should align with the three eating patterns recommended by the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
  • Foods which exceed the recommended limits for sodium, added sugars and saturated fat should be excluded from labeling as ‘healthy.’ 
  • Foods fortified with essential nutrients should not be excluded from ‘healthy’ labeling if the fortification is consistent with the FDA’s fortification policies and the food contributes to an overall healthy eating pattern.
  • Consumer education on changes in labeling is essential to build and maintain consumer trust.

Read the full comments here.

About IFT
Founded in 1939, the Institute of Food Technologists is committed to advancing the science of food. Our non-profit scientific society—more than 17,000 members from more than 95 countries—brings together food scientists, technologists and related professionals from academia, government, and industry. For more information, please visit ift.org.


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