The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said it intends to examine consumer understanding of fortified foods, to work out whether people consider generally unhealthy snack foods to be healthier if they contain added nutrients.
The FDA said that it does not encourage the addition of nutrients to certain less healthy foods, such as cookies, candy, or carbonated beverages, but food companies are not forbidden from doing so. Therefore, the agency has proposed two studies to examine how – or whether – perceptions and purchase decisions are influenced by fortification.
“FDA is interested in studying whether fortification of these foods could cause consumers to believe that substituting fortified snack foods for more nutritious foods would ensure a nutritionally sound diet,” it said.
The FDA has what it calls a set of principles for adding nutrients to foods and beverages, stating that it does not consider it appropriate to fortify fresh produce; meat, poultry, or fish products; sugars; or snack foods such as candies and carbonated beverages.
It also says: “Random fortification of foods could result in over- or under-fortification in consumer diets and create nutrient imbalances in the food supply. It could also result in deceptive or misleading claims for certain foods.” It adds that the FDA “does not encourage indiscriminate addition of nutrients to foods.”
The FDA has proposed two related studies to explore consumer responses to fortification claims on snack food labels, such as cookies, carbonated drinks, and candy. The first will involve an online questionnaire, while the second will also include a grocery shopping simulation activity to be carried out by a nationally representative sample of the US adult population.
The studies would form part of the agency’s effort to help people make informed dietary choices, the FDA said. However, it added that results from the study would not be directly used to inform policy.
The agency is accepting comments on its proposal until October 15. For further information, including details on how to comment, click here .