Complicating the situation was an existing FDA requirement that says a food product-whether fresh, frozen or canned-may be labeled "healthy" if low in fat, sodium and cholesterol, and if it contains at least 10% of the daily recommended serving of vitamins A or C, calcium, iron, protein, or fiber. The conflicted rulings meant that all fresh fruits and vegetables could be labeled "healthy" whether or not they met the 10% requirement, yet only a few frozen or canned products could be so labeled. The American Frozen Food Institute and the National Food Processors Assn. (NFPA) petitioned FDA to extend the exemption, offering scientific evidence that frozen and canned versions can contain as many and sometimes even more nutrients than fresh fruits and vegetables. With the new ruling, all produce, whether fresh, frozen or canned, may now be labeled healthful, regardless of whether the product meets the 10% requirement. Of course, the ruling applies only to products without sauces, oils, syrups, brine or other additions. "We're excited about it but we're still trying to figure out what we can do," says Chris Mings, vp of marketing for Dean Foods Vegetable Co., which owns the Bird's Eye and Fresh Lake brands. "We know the letter of the law, but we want to figure out what else we can say and do on the package." The ruling was effective on March 25, 1998.
FDA expands 'healthy' label to frozen and canned produce
Processors of frozen and canned produce are studying how best to take advantage of a new ruling by the Food and Drug Administration allowing frozen and canned fruits and vegetables to be labeled "healthy." Using that term to describe all fresh fruits and vegetables has been allowed since 1994, but no such broad allowance was made at that time for frozen or canned fruits and vegetables.