New FDA Rule to Prohibit Omega-3 Claims on Labels

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Just when you thought food labels were being revamped—and simplified—a new ruling by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about claims on foods and supplements that contain omega-3 fatty acids might make reading labels even more confusing.

This week, the FDA issued a final rule that prohibits certain nutrient content claims on foods and supplements that contain the omega-3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).

After review, the FDA decided that claims made by three seafood processors stating that their products were “high,” “rich in,” and “excellent source” of DHA and EPA failed to meet requirements of the Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act.

Nutrient content claims including “high,” “good source,” and “more” for ALA made by these companies are also prohibited since the FDA finds them “inherently misleading.” However, similar claims for ALA made by one group can stay on labels for now since the final rule “would neither prohibit nor modify the nutrient content claims.”

RELATED: Are You Falling for These 10 Food Label Lies?

The FDA ruling for foods and supplements with omega-3 fatty acids will take effect January 1, 2016, and manufacturers will have up to a year from that date to comply with the rule and change food and supplement labels accordingly.

It’s uncertain whether the FDA will establish nutrient levels for DHA, EPA, and ALA claims anytime soon, but Harry Rice, Ph.D., vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs for the not-for-profit Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED) told FoodNavigator-Usa.com, “By the time the final rule is effective, GOED is hopeful that a dietary reference intake review will have already commenced for EPA and DHA.”

But while there are plenty of foods like cereals, eggs, vegetable oil spreads, and more that are enhanced with EPA, DHA, and ALA in varying amounts, rather than be lured by any claim on a food label, why not get your fill by emphasizing foods that naturally contain these nutritious fatty acids in your diet to get your fill?

In its 2014 position paper on Dietary Fatty Acids for Healthy Adults, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends consuming two or more servings (at least 8 ounces total) of fatty fish weekly to provide at least 500 milligrams of EPA and DHA daily. (See the Super Green list from Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch for options that are low in mercury and that provide at least 250 milligrams per day (mg/d) of omega-3s).) To meet the current adequate intake level of ALA (1.6 gram per day for men and 1.1 gram per day for women) flaxseeds, walnuts, tofu, and soybean, canola, and flaxseed oils provide some tasty and versatile options.

 

Elisa Zied, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., is a nationally recognized and award-winning registered dietitian. Author of the new book Younger Next Week (Harlequin Nonfiction, 2014), and three other consumer titles, Zied has garnered millions of media impression as a featured expert on  Good Morning America and the Today Show, and in USA Today and dozens of other national print and online publications. She's an advisor and blogger for Parents.com. Follow her @elisazied and on Facebook.

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