Although not a health claim, per se, the recent launch of the revised Whole Grain Stamp program stands out as an example of labeling language in action.
First introduced in early 2005 for use on bread, cereals, crackers, granola bars and a wide range of other foods, the stamp, developed as a voluntary industry program by the Whole Grains Council, only recently received approval from the federal government for more widespread use.
In August, the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture said it would allow for the use of the Whole Grain Stamp on certain meat and poultry items. The move means that in addition to the approximately 800 food products it currently appears on, the stamp now is eligible to be placed on pizzas, pot pies, pocket sandwiches and other foods made with a significant amount of whole grain.
"With this decision, F.S.I.S. has taken another important step to support the Dietary Guidelines and MyPyramid," said K. Dun Gifford, president of Oldways Preservation Trust, founder of the W.G.C. "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."
There are two stamps for use on meat and poultry products: a basic stamp and a 100% stamp. In order to qualify for the basic stamp, a product must contain at least 8 grams of whole grain ingredients per labeled serving and per RACC. At least 51% of the grains in the product must be whole grains. To qualify for the 100% stamp, products must contain at least 16 grams of whole grain ingredients per serving and per RACC, with all of the grain in the product whole grains. "As this rules out any addition of grain-based starchy release agents or thickeners, vital wheat gluten, bran toppings, etc., that are not 100% whole grain, it is expected that few, if any, F.S.I.S. products will qualify for the 100% Whole Grain Stamp," the W.G.C. said.
To count as a whole grain, ingredients must include the bran, germ and endosperm of the grain, in the same proportions as when the grain was growing in the field, the W.G.C. added.
The W.G.C. stressed that in order for its members to use the stamps, they must follow all F.S.I.S. labeling regulations and guidelines, especially that:
• F.S.I.S. limits certain claims (such as "healthy") and does not allow implied claims (such as contains, provides, more, etc.)
• F.S.I.S. regulation and guidelines pertain not only to packaging labels but also to promotional materials such as brochures, web sites and advertisements.
• All labels bearing the Whole Grain Stamp will need to be submitted to F.S.I.S. for review and approval prior to usage.