FDA whole grain study a costly waste of time without revision, warn experts

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Grains, Whole grain, Whole grains council, Fda

Wholegrains include the entire grain seed (kernel), which consists of bran, germ, and endosperm
Wholegrains include the entire grain seed (kernel), which consists of bran, germ, and endosperm
A study the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is compiling to determine the level of consumer understanding about whole grains is well-intentioned but could prove to be a waste of time and money unless it is substantially revised, experts have warned.

The proposed study ​– on online poll of 2,700 US adults – is designed to gain a better understanding of how consumers interpret whole grain statements on food packaging.

Policy makers must gain a better understanding

Says the FDA: “Given the variety of whole-grain statements on food products and the importance of whole grains in maintaining a healthy diet, it is important for policy makers to gain a better understanding of how consumers interpret these statements.

Several studies indicate that consumers may have difficulties in understanding the meaning of whole grains or recognizing whole grain foods. There is a lack of systematic investigation of consumers' understanding of different whole-grain labeling statements.”

Results of the proposed survey would provide answers to questions such as whether consumers believe the terms ‘whole grain’, ‘multi grain’, ‘100 % whole wheat’, ‘stoneground flour’, ’12 grain’ and ‘enriched grains’ are interchangeable and whether they know how to determine whether a food contains whole grains.

All their efforts will be for nothing

While this information would be of interest to the food industry and health professionals, an accurate set of answers would not be forthcoming unless many of the questions were rewritten, warned Cynthia Harriman, Director of Food and Nutrition Strategies at The Whole Grains Council.

“All the questions have good intentions behind them. We're just concerned that, the way they're being asked, FDA won't get the data it's trying to unearth and all their efforts will be for nothing: a nothing from which misleading conclusions might be drawn."

We strongly urge the FDA to rework this questionnaire

Lee Sanders, senior vice president, government relations & public affairs American Bakers Association (ABA), said she was also concerned about the wording of many of the questions.

Along with The Whole Grains Council and General Mills, the ABA had asked for an extension to the comment period to take more time to consider the questionnaire, but without success, said Sanders.

“We never received an answer on our extension request so we went ahead and filed comments.”

The AACC International Whole Grains Working Group welcomed news that the FDA was planning the survey, but added: “We strongly urges the FDA to rework this questionnaire using survey methodology that will ensure questions are clearly written and will deliver the insights the FDA is seeking on whole-grain labeling.”

Kellogg survey: Consumers underestimate wholegrain needs

A March 2009 consumer survey conducted for Kellogg revealed that more than half the adults surveyed believed they were getting the right amount of fiber and whole grains, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

It also revealed that a significant portion of consumers believed whole grains and fiber were synonymous and that 5g of wholegrain would deliver 5g of fiber: “The results of this survey are concerning as it appears that claims about whole grain are an implied fiber claim. Yet, many of the products with whole-grain claims in today's marketplace do not provide significant levels of fiber.”

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend Americans consume at least half of all grains as whole grains, which include the entire grain seed (kernel), which consists of bran, germ, and endosperm.

Refined grains have been milled to remove the bran and germ, which creates a finer texture and improves their shelf life, but also removes dietary fiber, iron, and B vitamins. Enriched grains are grain products with B vitamins and iron added.

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1 comment

Whole grain claims misleading

Posted by Donnie,

Many food companies intentionally mislead consumers with their claims about whole grains and other health benefits. Most of the companies care only about their profits, and will claim their products are healthier or safer then they really are.

Many more consumers are paying close attention to ingredients and nutritional information, and are not blindly believing the inflated health claims, which may be lacking in truth. We are not all as dumb as the unethical companies think we are.

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