New US “healthy” label should boost seafood consumption

Women shopping for packaged seafood in a U.S. grocery store.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed new criteria for “healthy” labels on packaging, which industry insiders expect will increase seafood consumption.

The FDA’s proposed rule would align the definition of the “healthy” claim with current nutrition science, the updated Nutrition Facts label and the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

In order to include a “healthy” claim on food packaging, products will need to contain a certain meaningful amount of food from at least one of the food groups or subgroups recommended by the dietary guidelines. Eligible foods include nuts and seeds, higher-fat fish such as salmon, certain oils, and water. Manufacturers also have to adhere to specific limits for certain nutrients, such as saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars.

“Diet-related chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and Type-2 diabetes, are the leading causes of death and disability in the U.S. and disproportionately impact racial and ethnic minority groups,” FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf said. “Today’s action is an important step toward accomplishing a number of nutrition-related priorities, which include empowering consumers with information to choose healthier diets and establishing healthy eating habits early. It can also result in a healthier food supply.”  

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said the move is intended to get Americans to eat healthier food.

“Nutrition is key to improving our nation’s health,” Becerra said. “Healthy food can lower our risk for chronic disease. But too many people may not know what constitutes healthy food. FDA’s move will help educate more Americans to improve health outcomes, tackle health disparities, and save lives.”

National Fisheries Institute Senior Director of Communications and Advocacy Brandon Phillips told SeafoodSource said NFI is reviewing FDA’s proposed rule, but he said it could help reinforce the federal recommendation Americans consume two to three servings of nutritious, wholesome seafood every week. 

“Proposals intended to support this recommendation deserve serious consideration, especially since 94 percent of children and 80 percent of adults currently do not eat the recommended amount of fish,” Phillips said.

Separately, both NFI and Seafood Nutrition Partnership executives praised the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health and the government’s national strategy. The conference, which took place Wednesday, 28 September, and U.S. President Joe Biden’s related national strategy will also increase awareness around seafood’s role in improving nutrition and physical activity and reducing diet-related disease, they said.

The public health benefits of eating seafood for brain health, heart health, and overall wellness are well researched and established. With the strong theme of ‘Food Is Medicine’ in the White House National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, seafood must be a key component in all food and nutrition programs, as it contains the essential nutrients that support healthy brain development and mental resilience that we as a nation desperately need today,” SNP President Linda Cornish said in a press release.

As part of the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, SNP will commit a minimum of USD 280,000 (EUR 286,000) over the next eight years to better inform the public of the connections between seafood consumption and improved brain health. SNP will launch an Eating for Brain Health Program to educate moms on the nutrients required to reduce pre-term birth risk and foster healthy early brain development; and conduct research to measure and map omega-3 EPA and DHA deficiencies across the country to prioritize the roll-out of its education programs to the areas of greatest need.

“Seafood Nutrition Partnership encourages the seafood industry to make commitments to facilitate inclusion of seafood in all federal nutrition programs, provide data to help the FDA to highlight seafood as healthy on the front of packaging initiative, and work with regional food systems to make seafood available to local communities,” Cornish said.

Federal programming and education that clearly and consistently supports advice to eat more seafood must play a central part in the government’s national strategy, NFI President John Connelly said in a press release.  

“Low seafood intake is responsible for about 84,000 American lives lost to heart disease each year, which makes seafood deficiency the second-biggest dietary contributor to preventable deaths in the U.S.,” Connelly said.

To complement the actions outlined in the national strategy document, NFI and its members have issued a public commitment to provide nutritious and sustainable seafood meals to underserved families, empower consumers by raising awareness of seafood recommendations, and fund seafood science and communication research, Connelly said in a 27 September statement.

Photo courtesy of Sergey Ryzhov/Shutterstock


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