Food and Drug Administration Offers Promising Nutrition Innovation Strategy

Statement by Margo G. Wootan, Vice President for Nutrition


CSPI is encouraged by FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb’s statements about the importance of healthy eating to lowering the risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and other illness and the FDA’s plans to support Americans’ ability to eat well.  The public’s health will be improved by the FDA adopting voluntary sodium-reduction targets for food companies, implementing menu labeling by May 2018, and pursuing clearer ingredient labeling.  We’re disappointed that updated Nutrition Facts labels will not be in place until January 2020 for large companies, but, given the Commissioner’s strong statements about nutrition and that the updated labels are already on thousands of products in stores, we expect that the label format won’t be weakened.

As the FDA moves forward, we encourage it to:

  • Limit structure-function claims, which companies use more than health claims: think “enhances bone health” rather than “prevents osteoporosis.” Such claims do not currently need to be backed by solid scientific evidence and can appear on foods that are high in salt, saturated fat, or added sugars.
  • Make sure that “healthy” claims do not appear on foods that contain only small amounts of fruits, vegetables, or whole grains, or on foods that are high in problem nutrients, like sodium, added sugars, and saturated fat.  Including nuts doesn’t make a candy bar healthy.
  • Consider both consumer fraud and deception, as well as public health, in updating standards of identity for foods.

Misleading claims on food fuel confusion and thwart consumers’ efforts to eat well.  The FDA’s nutrition plans could make it easier for the public to identify and eat healthier diets.