Is Gum ‘Healthy?’ FDA Change Could Open Labeling Floodgates
Bottled water is also angling for a chance to be officially branded as a “healthy” choice.
Everyone wants to be eating healthy. Even when you’re eating a meat lovers pizza, you’re usually thinking, I should probably be eating healthier than this. That eternal desire to be healthy is part of the reason the FDA doesn’t let companies just throw around the “H” word: The government agency has specific guidelines for what products can be labeled as “healthy.” But the FDA is currently considering changes to that definition — and all sorts of products are hoping to squeeze through the door.
As the Associated Press reports, even products where health wouldn’t seem like a major consideration — namely bottled water and gum — are making their case for using the term. The current definition, which was put into place way back in 1994, almost certainly could use a bit of modernization, but at the same time, different people consider different things healthy — and putting parameters on the word is trickier than it might seem.
Take water for instance: We need water to live, which seems healthy enough. But the current definition of “healthy” requires a product have at least some sort of presence of nutrients — so though you certainly don’t want to try cutting water out of your diet to improve your health, it’s not officially “healthy” according to the FDA.
This nutrient rule is also one of the reasons the gum industry feels shortchanged that it can’t call sugar-free gum a “healthy” choice. “It doesn’t have fat. It doesn’t have sugar. It has virtually no calories,” Richard Mann, a lawyer for the International Chewing Gum Association, told the AP. Meanwhile, think of the workout your jaw gets: Isn’t that worth something?
Turns out examples like these are just the tip of the iceberg: The FDA has apparently received 1,140 comments since launching the public process for redefining the term in 2016. Though who knows how many of those were people begging to allow meat lovers pizzas to be called “healthy.” Sure, it’s not accurate, but we’d all feel better about ourselves. And isn’t that also worth something?