Food

FDA Nutrition Innovation Strategy

Today, chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer are the leading cause of death and disability in the United States. Nearly 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure, a leading cause of heart disease and strokes. Almost 40 percent of U.S. adults are obese, and if you add overweight adults, the percentage goes up to a staggering 70 percent. Among children and adolescents, almost one in five are obese. Poor nutrition plays a role in these patterns of chronic and preventable disease.

The FDA is committed to finding new ways to reduce the burden of chronic disease through improved nutrition. We look forward to using our tools and authorities to both empower consumers with information and facilitate industry innovation toward healthier foods that consumers want. Improvements in diet and nutrition offer us one of our greatest opportunities to have a profound, generational impact on human health and on reducing health disparities.

On March 29, 2018, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced the FDA Nutrition Innovation Strategy, which will take a fresh look at what can be done to reduce preventable death and disease related to poor nutrition.

The strategy is still in the early stages of development. Key activities currently planned as part of this strategy are summarized below. In addition, the FDA plans to have extensive engagement with stakeholders to seek input and further explore how to best promote public health in the evolving food and beverage marketplace. Part of this stakeholder engagement will include holding a public meeting in summer 2018. This page will be updated to reflect advances in the strategy’s development.

Key Elements

Consumers have long been interested in finding easier ways to identify healthful foods by looking at the labels when food shopping. Claims are quick signals for consumers about what benefits a food or beverage they choose might have, and they can also encourage the food industry to reformulate products to improve their healthy qualities.

Health claims are one tool that can incentivize competition in the marketplace. They can show that a food component may reduce the risk of a health-related condition, such as the relationship between folate and reducing the risk of certain birth defects in children.

"Healthy" is one claim that the FDA believes is ready for change and we have already signaled our intention to update the criteria for this claim. The Agency is considering how to depict "healthy" on the package so that consumers can easily find it. Similarly, the FDA has also received requests for clarity on the use of "natural" in labeling. Just like other claims made on products regulated by FDA, we believe the "natural" claim must be true and based in science.

In keeping with the enhanced focus on dietary patterns and food groups rather than only single nutrients, we are also interested in exploring claims for products that offer food groups for which American diets typically fall short of recommendations. Examples include whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits and vegetables, and healthy oils.

Availability of information about nutrients – both those we need to limit, such as added sugars and sodium, and those that consumers aren’t getting enough of, like potassium, remains a core aspect of our role and nutrition strategy.

The FDA also plans to streamline its process for reviewing health claims it receives from industry to enhance the efficiency of the review process. The goal is to triage requests based on their public health significance and prioritize those that are the most meaningful and science-based.

The FDA plans to re-evaluate the ingredients list on food packages to see what changes could make ingredient information more consumer-friendly. Consumers want "clean labels" with fewer ingredients and labels that are readable and understandable.

In addition to readability, this includes considering whether simpler names for certain ingredients, for example, use of the name "vitamin B6" for "pyridoxine" or "vitamin B12" for "cyanocobalamin," might help people better understand what’s in their food.

The FDA can help facilitate innovation while protecting public health through food standards of identity. Standards of identity are mandatory requirements related to the content and production of certain food products such as bread, jam, juices, and chocolate. It’s important to take a fresh look at existing standards of identity in light of marketing trends and the latest nutritional science. The goal is to maintain the basic nature and nutritional integrity of products while allowing industry flexibility for innovation to produce more healthful foods. In addition to standards of identity, there are rules for naming and describing products. The FDA will issue a Request for Information to help guide us in developing an approach to these areas.

The FDA also is taking final steps to provide consumers with the new Nutrition Facts label—the first overhaul in more than 20 years. The FDA issued final regulations in May 2016 and has issued several technical guidance documents on issues such as fiber and serving sizes to help manufacturers meet the requirements of the final Nutrition Facts rule. Consumers are starting to see updated labels based on current science, that provide more information to empower them to choose healthful diets.

The FDA is finishing its work on menu labeling. The Agency recently issued a draft guidance document that provides flexibility on how the menu labeling requirements can be implemented and will soon finalize the guidance. Beginning on May 7, 2018, consumers will have consistent access to this information in covered eating establishments across the country.

In addition, the Agency has announced a major educational campaign for consumers surrounding the new nutrition information that consumers will be seeing in the marketplace.

Reducing sodium in the diet is the single most effective public health action related to nutrition. Excess sodium in the diet results in high blood pressure, which increases the risk of strokes and heart attacks. The FDA is committed to advancing the short-term voluntary sodium targets and will align its approach with the Dietary Reference Intake study being conducted by the National Academies. The FDA plans to release the updated short-term targets in 2019, as well as continuing the dialogue on longer-term reduction efforts.

Additional Resources

 

Page Last Updated: 03/29/2018
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