FDA to Research ‘Healthy’ Symbol for Packaging

However, the agency has not updated its definition of healthy since the ’90s.

March 29, 2022

Healthy Food Symbols

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants to find a regulated, voluntary “healthy” symbol that would be placed on the front of a food package, reports Food Dive, and the FDA plans to use two consumer studies to help.

One is an online survey of about 2,000 adult consumers focusing on clarity, relevance and appeal of several symbols, and the second is an online study of about 5,000 adults testing their reactions and understanding of what a "healthy" symbol means on package mock-ups.

The term “healthy” was defined and regulated by the federal government in the 1990s, but a redefinition of the term to comply with current nutritional standards and eating habits has been pending since 2016.

The time frame for the FDA to conduct the research and find out the results is unclear, but there should be time in the interim for the FDA to release its updated "healthy" definitions, writes Food Dive.

Food Dive also reports that front-of-package information can confuse consumers. A recent study done by Attest showed that only 9% of people were able to identify the healthiest choice among six varieties of cereal bars when they were shown only package fronts. Terms that confused consumers include whole grains," "naturally flavored" and "100 calories."

The study also found that over half of consumers want clear nutrition labeling on package fronts, and having that information there would be the top factor to increase their trust in wellness-targeted food products.

Additionally, studies have found that labeling on package fronts drives manufacturers to make products more nutritious and helps consumers make better choices.