Products containing meat and poultry will now be able to feature the Whole Grain Stamp, after the US government announced it was to expand the list of goods eligible to use the eye-catching symbol.
Introduced by the Whole Grains Council (WGC) last year as a way to help consumers keep track of their whole grain consumption, the labels currently appear on nearly 800 products seen on shelves in the US.
But although the stamp is widely used on products such as breads, cereals, crackers and granola bars, until recently it had not been approved for use on meat and poultry goods.
Most foods in the US are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which sets out mandatory nutrition labeling in 1993 with the National Labeling and Education Act (NLEA).
However, foods containing meat, poultry and eggs are regulated by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), which provides labeling guidance for these. So labels on products containing meat and poultry in addition to grains, must be pre-approved by USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS).
The FSIS has now approved the use of the stamp on such goods, a move that comes just six weeks after the stamp was redesigned to provide consumers with more information.
Indeed last year's new Dietary Guidelines included the advice that Americans should consume more than three ounce-equivalents of whole grain products per day, although the precise recommendations vary with age, gender and lifestyle factors. At least half the grains consumed should be whole grains. In gram terms, this equates to 48g or more of whole grains per day.
"With this decision, FSIS has taken another important step to support the Dietary Guidelines and MyPyramid," said K. Dun Gifford, President of WGC parent company Oldways.
"These federal food and eating guides recommend we all eat three or more servings of whole grains each day, but Americans rushing up and down the grocery aisles need the help of these eye-catching Whole Grain Stamps to quickly locate whole grain foods," he added.
In late June, the Whole Grains Council changed the design of its characteristic stamp in order to avoid potential regulatory uncertainty surrounding its use of the terms 'excellent' source or 'good' source. The new stamp indicates the number of grams of whole grain ingredients in a serving.
Until now, the black-and-gold stamps have ranked products as 'excellent' or 'good' sources of whole grains according to their content (an excellent source had to have a minimum of 16g per serving). But because the FDA remains vague about the use of these terms, the WGC decided to modify the stamps to preempt potential regulatory changes.
The move is a consequence of the FDA's recent rejection of a petition filed by General Mills requesting the development of definitions for 'excellent source,' 'good source' and 'made with' whole grains.
The new stamps indicate the whole grain content of products by weight, such as "27g or more per serving" . But because this can still be confusing to some consumers who do not know how this compares to the daily recommended levels, there is also text directly below the stamp reading "Eat 48g or More of Whole Grains Daily".
Standards for products to qualify for the new stamps remain the same as before. Products must contain at least 8g (half a 'Pyramid serving') of whole grains to use the stamp. Stamps on products with at least 16g (a full 'Pyramid serving') of whole grains may also add "100 %" if all the grain in the product is whole grain.