Extension News

Lighten Up Iowa Applauds FDA Action on ‘Whole Grain’ Definition


AMES, Iowa --Last week the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an official definition of whole-grain foods. “Since the release of the Dietary Guidelines recommending Americans eat at least three one-ounce servings of whole grains daily, consumers have been inundated by products promoted as ‘whole grain’ when in fact many would not meet this official definition,” said Ruth Litchfield, Iowa State University Extension nutrition specialist.

“Approximately 42 percent of Americans never eat a whole grain. Yet, whole grains can help reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease, and may even help with weight maintenance,” Litchfield said. “Helping Iowans understand those connections is one of the goals of the Lighten Up Iowa program.”

According to the FDA, whole-grain includes cereal grains that consist of the intact, ground, cracked or flaked fruit of the grains whose principal components – the starch endosperm, germ and bran – are present in the same relative proportions as they exist in the intact grain. Such grains include barley, buckwheat, bulgur, corn, millet, rice, rye, oats, sorghum, wheat and wild rice.

“The new definition is only a recommendation and is not legally enforceable,” Litchfield said. “Public comments are being accepted for the next 60 days.”

Manufacturers can make factual statements about whole grains on the label of their products, such as ‘100% whole grain’ or ‘10 grams of whole grains,’ if those statements are not false or misleading. They also may use health claims linking whole grains to a reduced risk of coronary heart disease and certain cancers per existing FDA statutes. However, they cannot imply a particular level of the ingredient, i.e., ‘high’ or ‘excellent.’

“We applaud the FDA for defining what whole grain is,” Litchfield said. “Unfortunately, the FDA has not defined any claims concerning the grain content of foods. Consumers should continue to check labels. Grains such as wheat, rice, oats or corn must be described as ‘whole’ in the list of ingredients to be considered a significant source of whole grain and also should be one of the first three ingredients listed.”  

Additional information is available at these Web sites:


Contacts :
Ruth Litchfield, Ph.D., Food Science and Human Nutrition, (515) 294-9484, litch@iastate.edu
Deborah Martinez, Coordinator of Lighten Up Iowa, (888) 777-8881, deborah@lightenupiowa.org 
Tim Lane, Iowa Department of Public Health, (515) 281-7833, tlane@idph.state.ia.us
Diane Nelson, Continuing Education and Communication Services, (515) 294-3178, dinelson@iastate.edu