The Whole Grain Stamp program is evolving to give the number of grams of whole grain ingredients in a serving, an initiative that will help consumers keep track of their consumption.
The program was initiated by the Whole Grains Council in January, and 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).
The labels currently appear on more than 600 products seen on shelves in the US.
The 2005 Dietary Guidelines included the advice that Americans should consume upwards of 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 - a value that will also appear on the new stamps as a reminder and to help discerning consumers keep a tally of their consumption.
In February the FDA issued draft guidelines setting out what it understands to be whole grains - that is, cereal grains consisting of the intact, ground, cracked or flaked fruit of the grains whose starchy endosperm, germ and bran are present in the same relative proportions as in the intact grain.
These definitions were intended to help manufacturers understand what the FDA considers appropriate for food labels making whole grain statements, and for consumers to have consistent guidance on what whole grain entails.However, while the guidance supports manufactures making quantitive statements about the amount of whole grains in their products - such as '100 percent whole grain' or '10 grams of whole grains' - so long as such statements are not false or misleading, but that they should not imply that a particular level, such as 'excellent' or a 'good' source.
A spokesperson for Oldways, the parent company of the Whole Grains Council, told NutraIngredients.com that the decision to phase out 'excellent' or 'good' wording on the stamps was not connected with the FDA guidelines.
Rather, she said: "The evolution of the stamp is moving away from the regulatory uncertainty".
The Whole Grains Council had previously urged the FDA to clarify its position on whole grains.
Although it welcomed the announcement of the guidelines, which were subject to a 60-day comment period that came to a close this week, it pointed out at the time that they not "establish legally enforceable responsibilities".
The FDA currently permits foods containing at least 51 percent whole grains by weight and are low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol to carry a health claim, which links them to a reduced risk of heart disease and certain cancers.