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White House Unveils Nutrition Strategy

FDA explores proposals to improve nutrition literacy, access

September 28, 2022

The location of nutrition labels and the foods that are deemed “healthy” could be changing.

This week, the White House released its national strategy to “end hunger, improve nutrition and physical activity, reduce diet-related diseases, and close disparity gaps by 2030.” The national plan includes recommendations that could alter how food is labeled and categorized.

“Nutrition is key to improving our nation’s health,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Healthy food can lower our risk for chronic disease. But too many people may not know what constitutes healthy food. 

The report evaluates discouraging trends in the nation’s nutritional health. During 2021, about 1 in 10 households experienced food insecurity. Nineteen states and two territories have an obesity prevalence at or above 35 percent, which is more than double the number from 2018, the report noted.

Among the key proposals in the national nutrition plan:

  • Redefining healthy foods:  Products labeled as “healthy” would need to have a meaningful amount of food from at least one of the food groups (fruits, vegetables, dairy), according to dietary guidelines. They also would have required limits on certain nutrients, such as saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars.
  • Front or back?:  The report also explores moving food labels to the front of packaging to help consumers “quickly and easily communicate nutrition information.”
  • A healthy logo:  The FDA is researching the use of a unified symbol that could help consumers better understand foods that are healthy. The agency is interested in the potential of “star ratings or traffic light schemes” that could help improve nutrition literacy.
  • Improving access:  The plan acknowledges how economic challenges can hurt health and nutrition, proposing initiatives to support access to free school meals; provide Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) benefits to more children; and expand Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility to more underserved populations.
  • Nutrition coverage:  The strategy recommends a pilot program to cover nutrition education and support through Medicaid, and provide Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries access to nutrition and obesity counseling.

“The consequences of food insecurity and diet-related diseases are significant, far reaching, and disproportionately impact historically underserved communities,” the report said. “Yet, food insecurity and diet-related diseases are largely preventable, if we prioritize the health of the nation.”

The federal report is available to review online.

Pennsylvania hospitals continue to focus on the way healthy nutrition improves lives and communities.

Last week, HAP joined Dr. Denise Johnson, Pennsylvania’s acting secretary of health and physician general, and representatives from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and member hospitals throughout the commonwealth at Geisinger Medical Center to recognize hospitals participating in the Good Food, Healthy Hospitals program.

Hospitals in the program make a commitment to offering nutritious foods and beverages to patients, employees, and visitors, and promoting locally sourced and sustainably produced products.

Learn more about the program.