F.D.A. expanding the definition of what is 'lean'

by Keith Nunes
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WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration, responding to a petition submitted by the Nestle Prepared Food Co. in 2004, has amended its food labeling regulations and expanded use of the nutrient claim "lean" to foods considered "mixed dishes not measurable with a cup that meet specific criteria for total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol." Such dishes may include burritos, egg rolls, enchiladas, pizza, quiches and sandwiches.

Prior to the action, foods subject to the F.D.A.’s definition of a "main dish," but that weighted less than 6 oz per labeled serving could not bear the lean label claim. The reference amount for foods such as burritos has traditionally been approximately 5 oz.

In approving the petition, the F.D.A. acknowledged these types of products "have found their way into the American diet and serve as a convenient ‘meals-on-the-go’ eating option"; the category has become well established; and there is a growing interest in healthful alternatives to traditional food options, including vegetarian alternatives.

The agency further explained it believes portable food products, particularly those that are nutritious and portion controlled, serve a useful purpose in assisting consumers in selecting a diet consistent dietary recommendations.

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