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FDA to amend nutrient claims

It took more than six months, but FDA finally told the National Food Processors Assn. (NFPA) it will grant the association's petition to initiate rulemaking to correct existing regulations that it says hinder the use of health and nutrition claims on food product packaging.

The goal is to provide consumers with more information about the health benefits of foods. A proposed rule is due out by November 1995. FDA will rule on several issues raised by NFPA, including: * Greater flexibility in health claims language. FDA will consider whether some of the required elements of each health claim should be made optional. It also will evaluate use of abbreviated health claims on the principal display panel, provided consumers are directed to a more complete claim elsewhere on the label. * Use of synonymous nutrient content claims and implied claims when the synonyms are consistent with, and used on the same label as, the defined claim term. * The "jelly bean rule" that establishes minimum nutrient level of making a health claim. FDA told NFPA it will propose exempting raw and processed fruits and vegetables and some grain products from the rule and will consider extending it to other food categories. FDA denied two of NFPA's requests. It will not change health claims disqualifying levels to disclosure levels, but will evaluate the practice on a case-by-case basis. The Agency also said it did not have authority to amend its regulations to permit, without preclearance, health claims that have been validated by authoritative third parties. It suggested that these entities might be used in developing health claims petitions. NFPA President John Cady called on Congress to change the law to allow "external scientific experts" to validate additional health claims without requiring preclearance of the claim by FDA. No word if anyone in Congress is interested in initiating such a change.

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