The Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. has issued advice on what the term "whole grain" may include.
It is hoped the guidance will help manufacturers with what the FDA considers appropriate food label statements related to "whole grain" content and give consumers a more consistent and reliable basis for making decisions about the dietary values of foods.
FDA Deputy Commissioner for Medical and Scientific Affairs Dr. Scott Gottlieb, says finding additional ways to clearly communicate the health benefits found in food is a priority, and one of the most important decisions people can make about their health is the choice of foods they eat.
The document explains what the FDA means by the term "whole grain" which is 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.
Good examples are grains such as barley, buckwheat, bulgur, corn, millet, rice, rye, oats, sorghum, wheat and wild rice.
If the grain refining process removes some of the bran and germ, resulting in a loss of dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals, the products may not then meet the "whole grain" definition.
To clarify, the FDA does not consider products derived from legumes (soybeans), oilseeds (sunflower seeds) and roots (arrowroot) as "whole grains", and the draft guidance specifically recommends that pizza only be labeled as "whole grain" or "whole wheat" when its crust is made entirely from whole grain flours or whole wheat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.
Dr. Robert E. Brackett, director of FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, says the food label is the best tool in helping consumers choose a healthy diet, which includes whole grain products.
The move is part of the federal government's on-going 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, and recommends that people eat at least 3 ounces of whole-grain cereals, breads, crackers, rice or pasta every day.
One ounce equals 1 slice of bread, 1 cup of breakfast cereal or 1/2 cup of cooked rice or pasta.
Consumers should in future check that grains such as wheat, rice, oats or corn are referred to as "whole" in the list of ingredients.
At present manufacturers can label products as whole grain when they contain as little as 10 grams or 1/2 ounce of whole grains.