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A healthier message

The Food and Drug Administration has created a Better Information for Better Health task force to find ways to inform consumers of the health consequences of their food choices.

Speaking at the National Food Policy Conference in Washington, DC, in May, FDA commissioner Mark B. McClellan, M.D., Ph.D., said the task force will make recommendations on how food labels can be used for this purpose.

McClellan said current labels focus mainly on taste, ease of preparation, and price, but “the number one focus should be on how consumers’ health will be affected by including that food in their diet.” Evidence shows that providing information on the food label about the consequences for health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer is a compelling way to reach consumers, said the commissioner. But, “right now, there’s not much of a path to enable such health claims to be made.” Only limited incentives are available for the food industry to develop better health-promoting foods.

“To create a marketplace that strongly encourages competition based on the health consequences of the foods we eat, we need a stronger and better-developed framework for science-based health claims,” McClellan said.

The task force is teaming with the FTC and has had several formal meetings with health professionals, academics, consumers, and industry groups. There is an open docket for public comments as well.

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