The Trump administration wants to push food companies to use new health claims and labeling language to improve Americans' diets and also is moving ahead with an Obama-era initiative to reduce sodium consumption. 

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb on Thursday outlined a “nutrition innovation strategy” that he likened in importance to past efforts to stop smoking. 

“Improving the nutrition and diet of Americans would be another transformative effort toward reducing the burden of many chronic diseases, ranging from diabetes to cancer to heart disease,” Gottlieb said, speaking at the Consumer Federation of America’s annual food policy conference. 

“The public health gains from this effort would almost certainly dwarf any single medical intervention that we could discover.” 

The strategy includes allowing companies to use more easily understandable ingredient names, such as potassium salt for potassium chloride, as a more healthful substitute for table salt, or sodium chloride. 

FDA also wants to encourage companies to apply for approval to label products with health claims, including “qualified” health claims, which describe a link between the food and a health outcome. Qualified health claims have a lower standard of scientific evidence. 

One example of a  health claim is: "Diets low in sodium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure, a disease associated with many factors.”

Gottlieb (shown above) said FDA will prioritize proposed health claims that would have the most significant impact on health and the strongest scientific support. One example of a priority he gave: “Early peanut introduction in certain infants leads to a reduced risk of developing a peanut allergy.”

The agency also is exploring ways in which labeling claims could encourage Americans to increase their consumption not just of single nutrients but also of certain food groups that Americans don't eat often enough, including whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits and vegetables, and healthy oils.

Another part of FDA’s strategy is to review standards of identities for foods, the rules that govern for example, what ingredients a product can contain and what terms can be used to describe it. He noted that standards for some cheeses prevent processors from lowering the sodium content.

He did not mention it, but dairy producers are currently lobbying FDA to prevent plant-based beverages from being labeled as “milk.” 

As for sodium, Gottlieb said he was committed to issuing next year updated industry targets for sodium reduction. He said the updated targets would be aligned with recommendations currently being developed by the National Academy of Sciences.

“There remains no single more effective public health action related to nutrition than the reduction of sodium in the diet,” he said, noting that African Americans are at particular risk for hypertension. 

Gottlieb also noted that FDA is going forward with the menu labeling rules issued by the Obama administration as a requirement of the Affordable Care Act. 

Starting May 7, "consumers can walk into these covered eating establishments across the country and know at a glance how many calories are in the foods they order for themselves and their kids," he said. 

FDA also is implementing Obama-era changes to the nutrition facts label that among other things will require products to list added sugars. 

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