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WASHINGTON - The Food and Drug Administration yesterday issued draft guidance on what the term "whole grain" may include. The guidance will assist manufacturers with what the FDA considers appropriate for food label statements related to "whole grain" content, while also providing consumers a consistent definition.
The FDA document clarifies that the agency considers "whole grain" to include cereal grains that consist of the intact, ground, cracked, or flaked fruit of the grains whose principal components -- the starchy endosperm, germ, and bran -- are present in the same relative proportions as they exist in the intact grain. Such grains may include barley, buckwheat, bulgur, corn, millet, rice, rye, oats, sorghum, wheat, and wild rice.
In contrast, in the grain refining process some of the bran and germ is removed resulting in a loss of dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
The draft guidance states that although rolled and "quick oats" can be called "whole grains" because they contain all of their bran, germ, and endosperm, other widely used food products may not meet the "whole grain" definition. For example, FDA does not consider products derived from legumes (soybeans), oilseeds (sunflower seeds), and roots (arrowroot) as "whole grains." The draft guidance specifically recommends that pizza only be labeled as "whole grain" or "whole wheat" when its crust is made entirely from whole grain flours or whole wheat flour, respectively.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association's senior director of scientific and nutrition policy, Alison Kretser, praised the FDA's new guidance. "By clarifying what is a whole grain serving, the FDA's new draft guidance gives the food industry a tool to communicate the health benefits of whole grains to all consumers via the food label," she noted.
The draft guidance is part of the federal government's long-standing effort to advise consumers about healthy food choices. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that half of the grain that consumers eat should be whole grains. Currently, manufacturers can also make factual statements about whole grains on food labels such as "10 grams of whole grains" or "1/2 ounce of whole grains."