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May 20, 2022

Around the nation: FDA tests label designs for 'healthy' food

Daily Briefing

    FDA is in the process of testing designs for a voluntary label that food manufacturers could add to indicate that a product is "healthy," in today's bite-sized hospital and health industry news from California, the District of Columbia, and Maryland.

    • California: Amid a federal investigation of its prescribing practices, the board of telehealth company Cerebral on Tuesday voted to replace co-founder Kyle Robertson as CEO. According to the company's announcement, the board replaced Robertson with David Mou, the company's president and CMO—a move Robertson later said was illegal after he accused the board of casting him as a scapegoat for the company's issues. After the Department of Justice launched an investigation into Cerebral for possible violations of the Controlled Substances Act, the company stopped prescribing most controlled substances and redesigned its advertising. (Bruce, Becker's Hospital Review, 5/18; Winkler, Wall Street Journal, 5/18; Winkler, Wall Street Journal, 5/17)
    • District of Columbia: HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra on Wednesday tested positive for the coronavirus while traveling in Berlin. "This morning in Berlin, ahead of G7 meetings for health ministers, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra tested positive for Covid-19 after taking a PCR test," said HHS spokesperson Sarah Lovenheim. "He is fully vaccinated and boosted against Covid-19, and is experiencing mild symptoms. He will continue to perform his duties as HHS Secretary, working in isolation." According to the statement, Becerra has not been to the White House since last Thursday, and President Joe Biden is not considered a close contact. "[Becerra] remains fully engaged with the duties of HHS Secretary while in isolation in Berlin, and looks forward to resuming in-person meetings, as soon as possible," Lovenheim added. (Sullivan, The Hill, 5/18)
    • Maryland: FDA is in the process of testing designs for a voluntary label that food manufacturers could add to indicate that a product is "healthy"—a campaign that has been hailed by many as controversial, largely because the definition of "healthy" continues to evolve. Currently, FDA is conducting two consumer tests of potential logos as part of its goal to "improve dietary patterns in the United States, to help reduce the burden of diet-related chronic diseases and advance health equity." According to the Federal Register, the agency will survey 2,000 adults who identify as primary food shoppers to test the "clarity, relevance, and appeal of a set of symbols." FDA will administer a 15-minute web-based questionnaire to 5,000 adults. Participants will be asked to react to proposed "healthy" symbols on the packaging of several mock products. The agency said it is "researching general consumer perceptions and impressions of the symbols themselves, not the definition that may underlie those symbols," which is still under consideration. "While FDA is considering how to redefine the term 'healthy' as a nutrient content claim, food manufacturers can continue to use the term 'healthy' on foods that meet the current regulatory definition," said FDA spokesperson Kimberly DiFonzo. According to DiFonzo, FDA "intends to publish the proposed rule with the definition update soon." (Kingson, Axios, 5/19)

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