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FDA proposes labeling for nonpasteurized juices (sidebar)

FDA unfreezes 'healthy' label

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Manufacturers of processed fruit and vegetables can stick the term "healthy" on their labels even if the product lacks certain vitamins. In making that announcement, the Food and Drug Administration put the frozen folks on a par with the "fresh" folks. The FDA action only applies to "single-ingredient" fruit and vegetable products, or mixes of both categories. The single-ingredient qualification is meant to exclude frozen fruit and vegetables sold in a sauce or syrup. When the FDA published its "healthy" food labeling rule in May 1994, the agency said that to qualify food products must meet three requirements. First, the food must be low in fat and saturated fat; second, it must have limited sodium and cholesterol; and finally, it must contribute at least 10% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) or Daily Reference Value (DRV) of one or more of the following nutrients: vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron, protein or fiber. A food could also be fortified with a vitamin to meet the 10% requirement. The agency exempted fresh fruit and vegetables from the 10% requirement. It reasoned they were such an asset to a good diet that they should be able to carry the healthy label without meeting the vitamin requirement. The American Frozen Food Institute and National Food Processors Assn. filed petitions asking that its members' products be excluded as well from the 10% requirement. The FDA granted their wish on March 25. The agency said data provided by AFFI and the U.S. Department of Agriculture showed that fresh fruit and frozen single-ingredient fruit had "equivalent nutrient profiles." In fact, some data showed that the nutrient content level for certain nutrients was higher in the frozen version of the food than in the raw version. The FDA at the same time announced it would allow enriched grain products to use the "healthy" designation, even if they did not meet the 10% requirement. The breads and flours must meet a standard of identity, however, to qualify.

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