February 15, 2006

FDA proposes definition for whole grains

By Christopher Doering

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Food and Drug
Administration said on Wednesday it has formulated a new
definition of whole grain that will make it easier for
consumers to follow a healthy diet.

It is the first time the FDA has issued a specific
definition for consumers and the food industry of what it
considers to be whole grain.

FDA said whole grains include cereal grains such as barley,
corn, rice, oats or wheat that consist of the intact, ground,
cracked or flaked fruit of the grain. Products such as pizza
crust could only be labeled as "whole grain" or "whole wheat"
when the crust is made entirely from grain or wheat.

"The agency's intent is to have this as guidance and to
reflect our thinking about what constitutes whole grains," said
Barbara Schneeman, director of FDA's office of nutritional
products, labeling and dietary supplements.

"Using the term multi-grain or seven-grain doesn't
necessarily mean that a product contains whole grains," she
told reporters.

FDA said providing a standard definition would help
consumers select whole-grain products that are consistent with
dietary guidelines.

The popularity of whole grains has soared in recent years
after scientific studies showed they may help prevent
cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Currently, several cereal, bread and other food products
are being touted as "good" or "excellent" sources of whole
grains. FDA said such labels are meant only for nutritional
content claims -- such as a "good source" of calcium -- where
there are established standards.

FDA did not say whether food processors that market their
products as whole grain will have to remove the claims.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest said the FDA
was making progress toward discouraging those misleading

"I don't praise FDA that often, but in this case I think
they made the right decision," said Bonnie Liebman, director of
nutrition for CSPI.

The food industry said the FDA's proposal was a step in the
right direction.

Stephanie Childs, spokeswoman for the Grocery Manufacturers
Association, said the industry has been looking for guidance on
what the FDA considered to be accurate whole-grain labeling.

"There have been some questions in terms of what we could
say" is whole grains, said Childs. "Until today, there was no
FDA definition for labeling statements."

According to dietary guidelines released last year,
Americans should eat at least three ounces of whole-grain
cereals, breads, crackers, rice or pasta every day. A slice of
bread or one cup of cereal is defined as an ounce.

A draft of FDA's new whole-grain guidelines will be
published in the Federal Register and open to public comment
for 60 days.