The FDA is conducting the consumer research on a potential symbol, which is intended to be a stylized representation of the nutrient content claim “healthy,” while at the same time developing a proposed rule that would update when manufacturers may use the “healthy” nutrient content claim on food packages. The agency intends to publish the proposed rule with the definition update soon.
In 2019 and 2020, the FDA conducted a review of the literature on front-of-package (FOP) nutrition-related symbols and conducted a series of focus groups to test symbol concepts and draft FOP symbols (see Docket No. FDA-2021-N-0336 for the literature review and a table of draft FOP symbols).
The agency says that, as part of its efforts to promote public health, it intends to conduct two consecutive quantitative research studies—a survey (Study 1) and an experimental study (Study 2) to explore consumer responses to the draft FOP symbols that companies could voluntarily use on a food product as a graphic representation of the nutrient content claim “healthy.”
If research results suggest the need, the symbols will be fine-tuned following the survey and again following the experimental study. Study 1 will use non-probability survey methods, using a web-based panel to draw a sample of 2,000 U.S. adults ages 18 and older who self-identify as primary food shoppers. The sample will be balanced to U.S. population demographics. The survey instrument will focus on clarity, relevance and appeal of a set of symbols.
The update to the definition and study of a potential symbol for the “healthy” nutrient content claim are part of the FDA’s broader efforts to help reduce the burden of diet-related chronic diseases and advance health equity. Updating labeling and making it more accessible helps empower consumers. In particular, claims and symbols can help consumers better understand nutrition information and identify foods that contribute to a healthy eating pattern. Manufacturers may also reformulate products to improve their nutritional value so they can use the claim.