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  1. Food Labeling & Nutrition

FDA Nutrition Innovation Strategy

Today, chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer are the leading cause of death and disability in the United States. Nearly 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure, a leading cause of heart disease and strokes. Almost 40 percent of U.S. adults are obese, and if you add overweight adults, the percentage goes up to a staggering 70 percent. Among children and adolescents, almost one in five are obese. Poor nutrition plays a role in these patterns of chronic and preventable disease.

The FDA is committed to finding new ways to reduce the burden of chronic disease through improved nutrition. We look forward to using our tools and authorities to both empower consumers with information and facilitate industry innovation toward healthier foods that consumers want. Improvements in diet and nutrition offer us one of our greatest opportunities to have a profound, generational impact on human health and on reducing health disparities.

On March 29, 2018, FDA announced the Nutrition Innovation Strategy (NIS), which will take a fresh look at what can be done to reduce preventable death and disease related to poor nutrition.

Key activities that are part of this strategy are summarized below. In addition, the FDA has been and will continue engaging with stakeholders to seek input and further explore how to best promote public health in the evolving food and beverage marketplace. Part of this stakeholder engagement was holding a public meeting on July 26, 2018.

Key Elements

Consumers have long been interested in finding easier ways to identify healthful foods by looking at the labels when food shopping. Claims are quick signals for consumers about what benefits a food or beverage they choose might have, and they can also encourage the food industry to reformulate products to improve their healthy qualities.

Health claims are one tool that can incentivize competition in the marketplace. They can show that a food component may reduce the risk of a health-related condition, such as the relationship between folate and reducing the risk of certain birth defects in children.

"Healthy" is one claim that the FDA believes is ready for change, and we have already signaled our intention to update the criteria for this claim. The Agency is considering how to depict "healthy" on the package so that consumers can easily find it. Similarly, the FDA has also received requests for clarity on the use of "natural" in labeling. Just like other claims made on products regulated by FDA, we believe the "natural" claim must be true and based in science.

In keeping with the enhanced focus on dietary patterns and food groups rather than only single nutrients, we are also interested in exploring claims for products that offer food groups for which American diets typically fall short of recommendations. Examples of these food groups include whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits and vegetables, and healthy oils.

Availability of information about nutrients – both those we need to limit, such as added sugars and sodium, and those that consumers aren’t getting enough of, like potassium – remains a core aspect of our role and nutrition strategy.

The FDA also plans to streamline its process for reviewing health claim petitions it receives from industry to enhance the efficiency of the review process. The goal is to triage requests based on their public health significance and prioritize those that are the most meaningful and science-based.

The FDA plans to re-evaluate the ingredient list on food packages to see what changes could make ingredient information more consumer-friendly. Consumers want "clean labels" with fewer ingredients and labels that are readable and understandable.

In addition to readability, this includes considering whether simpler names for certain ingredients, for example, use of the name "vitamin B6" for "pyridoxine" or "vitamin B12" for "cyanocobalamin," might help people better understand what’s in their food.

The FDA can help facilitate innovation while protecting public health through food standards of identity. Standards of identity impose requirements related to the content and production of certain food products such as bread, jam, juices, and chocolate. It's important to take a fresh look at existing standards of identity in light of marketing trends and the latest nutritional science. The goal is to maintain the basic nature and nutritional integrity of products while allowing industry flexibility for innovation to produce more healthful foods. In addition to standards of identity, there are rules for naming and describing products. The FDA issued a Request for Information on the labeling of plant-based products using dairy terms in labeling to help guide us in developing an approach to these areas.

The FDA also is taking final steps to provide consumers with the new Nutrition Facts label—the first overhaul in more than 20 years. The FDA issued final regulations in May 2016 and has issued several technical guidance documents on issues such as fiber and serving sizes to help manufacturers meet the requirements of the final Nutrition Facts rule. Consumers are starting to see updated labels based on current science that provide more information to empower them to choose healthful diets.

Regarding menu labeling, as of May 7, 2018, consumers have consistent access to calorie and other nutrition information in covered eating establishments across the country.  In May 2018, the Agency issued a final guidance document that provides flexibility on how the menu labeling requirements can be implemented. In addition, FDA launched “Calories on the Menu – Information for Consumers,” to help consumers learn how to use the new information they are seeing in restaurants and retail locations.

In addition, the Agency is planning a major educational campaign for consumers surrounding the new nutrition information on the Nutrition Fact label that consumers are already seeing now on some products in the marketplace.

Reducing sodium in the diet is the single most effective public health action related to nutrition. Excess sodium in the diet results in high blood pressure, which increases the risk of strokes and heart attacks. The FDA is committed to advancing the short-term voluntary sodium targets and is aligning its approach with the Dietary Reference Intake study released by the National Academies. The FDA plans to release the updated short-term targets in 2019, as well as continuing the dialogue on longer-term reduction efforts.

Teaching consumers how to use food labeling to make healthy food choices can help reduce preventable death and disease related to poor nutrition. FDA has, for example, developed educational materials to help consumers understand new labeling requirements for menus. Educational materials can also be used by healthcare professionals, teachers, dietitians and community leaders to relay information to consumers.

Nutrition Innovation Strategy (NIS) Progress

Initiative Progress
Overarching NIS Activities
  • Hosted NIS public meeting with 909 attendees (in-person & webcast) (July 2018)
  • Collected nearly 3,700 comments to the NIS docket (Oct. 2018) and are analyzing comments
Nutrition Facts label (NFL) Implementation

FDA issued Requests for Information (RFI):

Published several guidance documents to assist with implementation of the NFL:

Menu Labeling Implementation
  • Proposed rule under development
“Healthy” Symbol
Modernizing Claims
  • Discussed ways to modernize claims with stakeholders at NIS public meeting (July 2018) and reviewed comments submitted to docket
Modernizing Ingredient Labels
  • Discussed ways to modernize ingredient labels with stakeholders at NIS public meeting (July 2018) and reviewed comments submitted to docket
  • Published guidance to provide enforcement discretion for the use of “potassium salt” on product ingredient lists (December 2020)
Standards of Identity (SOI)
  • Developing final guidance on voluntary, short-term targets for sodium
  • Published guidance to provide enforcement discretion for the use of “potassium salt” on product ingredient lists (December 2020)
Nutrition Education

Additional Resources

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