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NAMA: Grain Labeling – Definitions, Successes, and Concerns


Whole Grain Products:  Contain the entire endosperm, bran and germ found in proportional amounts in the unprocessed grain kernel. Currently, folic acid fortification of whole grain products is prohibited by FDA standards of identity, with the exception of whole grain cereals.

Refined Unenriched Grain Products:  The germ and bran have been removed with only the endosperm remaining.  This represents less than 5% of the total white flour milled in the U.S.  It is used primarily for organic and artisan products.  A small amount goes into mixes for overseas consumption.

Enriched/Fortified Grain Products:  Products that have the three major B vitamins and iron replaced in equal amounts to those in whole grain products as defined by the standards of identity.  They are also fortified with folic acid.

Enriched –The FDA standards of identity recognizes the use of the term “enriched” for milled grains to which the three major B vitamins, iron and folic acid are added. 95% of the refined grains in America are enriched.

“Enriched” is a principal display panel product descriptor and ingredient labeling term consumers are familiar with and look for when purchasing healthy grains. “Refined” is not a principle display panel term.  Continuation of the term “refined” is confusing and inaccurate and NAMA supports the use of “enriched” instead of “refined”.

Success of Folic Acid

Since 1996, when the FDA mandated cereal-grain products be fortified with folic acid, there has been a 25-35% decrease in neural tube birth defects in the U.S.  In fact, the CDC recently listed folic acid fortification as one of the great public health achievements in the last decade.

Labeling Concerns

Whole Grain Definition – Government agencies currently use six different definitions for what constitutes a “whole grain” making it extremely difficult for manufacturers to know what products comply and how they should be labeled.

“Prohibited Grains” – FDA is proposing to define the term “gluten-free” for voluntary use in the labeling of foods, and uses the term “prohibited grains“ in that definition.  In NAMA’s comments to FDA, we recommended use of the term “gluten-containing grains,” which is factual and won’t mislead consumers.

Last updated September 2011

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