Feb. 15, 2006 -- Food manufacturers should stop using labels branding
products as "good" or "excellent" sources of whole grain, the
FDA said Wednesday.
Numerous products, including breads and cereals, now carry labels claiming
to be a good source of whole grain. But a guidance issued by the agency now
says the claim could be misleading because scientists have not defined what
amount of whole grain is "good" or "excellent" for health.
Editor's Note: Food Pyramid Replaced
In June 2011, the USDA replaced the food pyramid with a new plate icon.
"They should not be making statements that imply a level, such as 'high'
or 'an excellent source,'" says Barbara Schneeman, PhD, director of FDA's
Office of Nutritional Products, Labeling, and Dietary Supplements. The FDA does
not think that that terminology is appropriate to use on these products, she
"Food Pyramid" dietary guidelines released by the U.S. Department of
Agriculture last year call for consumers to boost their intake of whole grains,
which are thought to be a good source of dietary fiber and other nutrients. The
guidelines recommend half of all grain in the diet consist of whole grain.
The guidelines helped spur General Mills to announce last year that it would
manufacture all of its cereals using only whole grain.
Whole grain contains all three major components of a grain kernel: bran,
germ, and endosperm. Examples include:
Bulgur (cracked wheat)
According to the USDA, refined grains have been milled, a process that
removes the bran and germ. This is done to give grains a finer texture and
improve their shelf life, but it also removes dietary fiber, iron, and many B
Industry groups, regulators, and researchers often differ on how they define
FDA's guidance does not yet have the force of law. Schneeman says that the
agency is trying to give consumers a "more consistent" definition of
what "whole grain" means when they see it on food labels. The agency
opened a 60-day comment period allowing industry and the public to give input
on the guidance.
But the document does give a sense of how FDA will view food label claims in
'Good' or 'Excellent' Claims
Many foods now carry stamp-type labels proclaiming the product to be a
"good" or "excellent" source of whole grain. The stamps come
from the Whole Grain Council, an industry group including 110 food
Schneeman says that such labels would be evaluated "on a
case-by-case" basis to see if they violate the agency's existing rules
against "false and misleading" claims. The guidance is a "first
step" toward an FDA attempt to define the health benefits of whole grains,
Manufacturers can still use labels displaying a quantity of whole grain,
such as "5 grams" or "1 oz."
About 600 foods carry labels describing them as "good" or
"excellent" sources of whole grain.
Dun Gifford, the group's chairman, says the industry is "pleased"
that the FDA is working to simplify the definition of "whole grain" for
He stress that the FDA did not threaten to outlaw the "good" and
"excellent" labels the group uses, suggesting that the agency would not
enforce its opinion on the labels any time soon.
"They're going to review these things on an individual product basis. If
there are 600 products now and there's going to be 1,200 in a month, that's
going to be a long review," Gifford tells WebMD.
SOURCES: Guidance for Industry and FDA Staff, Whole Grain Label Statements,
FDA, Feb. 15, 2006. Barbara Schneeman, PhD, director, FDA Office of Nutritional
Products, Labeling and Dietary Supplements. Dun Gifford, founder and chairman,
Whole Grain Council.