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Spice Trade Association lobbies FDA over healthy label

The American Spice Trade Association is lobbying the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to allow spices to bear the label “healthy” under its nutritional guidelines, submitting a formal request Thursday. File Photo by Gary C. Caskey/UPI
The American Spice Trade Association is lobbying the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to allow spices to bear the label “healthy” under its nutritional guidelines, submitting a formal request Thursday. File Photo by Gary C. Caskey/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 16 (UPI) -- Industry advocates are lobbying the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to allow spices to bear the label "healthy" under its nutritional guidelines.

The American Spice Trade Association made the comments Thursday, submitting comments to the FDA.

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"Spices and herbs are healthful ingredients that promote healthy, diverse eating patterns, play a vital role in the celebration of cultural heritage, and are shown through a growing body of research to have a strong potential to improve health," the ASTA said in its letter to the FDA.

"Although spices meet the definition of vegetable products, considering the small reference amount customarily consumed, spices cannot meet the required food group equivalents outlined in the proposed rule for a food product to bear the 'healthy' claim.

"Therefore, we respectfully request that FDA categorically exempt spices and herbs, whether dried, ground, or in any other form, where no other ingredients are present, such as the categories of whole fruits/vegetables and plain water, which may bear the 'healthy' claim."

The request stems from the FDA's proposal in late September, in which the agency updated nutrient content claims, deciding to allow the "healthy" label on the packages of certain products.

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The move was part of the FDA's desire for packaging to reflect what has been learned about what makes a wholesome diet.

"Nutrition is key to improving our nation's health," U.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesSecretary Xavier Becerra said at the time.

The ASTA says spices can reduce a person's sugar intake levels.

It also points to a pair of studies, one of which found using spices can encourage high school students from economically underserved urban areas to eat more vegetables.

The second found similar positive results among preschool aged children.

More than 90 percent of Americans do not eat enough vegetables.

"Including herbs and spices in the 'healthy' definition would help achieve FDA's goals to align labeling regulations with the Dietary Guidelines and help consumers make healthier choices," ASTA Executive Director Laura Shumow said in a statement.

"Herbs and spices contain a wide variety of health-promoting properties. Beyond improving nutrition, a growing body of research shows that culinary spices and herbs may benefit heart, metabolic, and gut health, cognition, cancer prevention, and weight management. Plus, by adding flavor and embodying an important part of cultural and culinary traditions, they promote accessible and inclusive dietary patterns."

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