As a general rule, cereal grains that consist of the intact, ground, cracked or flaked fruit of the grain can claim the whole-grain designation. The category of whole grains includes: barley, buckwheat, bulgur, millet, rice, rye, oats, sorghum, wheat, amaranth, corn (including popcorn), quinoa, teff and triticale.
Certain allowances are made for processing that does not affect the desired elements of the grains. Dehulled barley can make the whole-grain claim because only the tough, inedible hull or outer covering is removed, while the bran layer itself is left intact. However, barley that has been pearled will be excluded because some of the bran layer has been removed.
Similarly, rolled and “quick oats” that are processed by flattening or steaming are allowed because they contain all of the bran, germ and endosperm of whole oats.
Corn flour meal and corn meal can claim whole-grain status so long as the pericarp and other essential fractions are included. Corn meals that have been degerminated or bolted will lose the designation because some germ or bran is removed.
Specific allowances are made for common food products. Pizza crust or bagels made entirely from whole-grain flours or whole-wheat flour is acceptable.
Other common food sources are specifically prohibited from inclusion in the whole-grain category. These include products derived from legumes, oilseeds and roots.
Current FDA regulations allow factual statements about the amount or percentage of whole grains found in food products so long as the label does not imply a particular level of the ingredient, such as “high” or “excellent source.” The FDA Modernization Act currently allows certain qualifying foods to contain health claims that relate whole grains to a reduced risk of coronary heart disease and certain cancers. Existing regulations also contain standards of identity for whole-wheat bread, rolls, buns and macaroni products made from whole-wheat flours.
Last October, the USDA/FSIS (Food Safety and Inspection Service) released its own draft policy for the labeling of meat and poultry products with MyPyramid references and whole-grain claims.
The guide pointedly stated that since FSIS does not currently have rules permitting whole-grain claims, it could not approve the labeling of meat and poultry products containing express whole-grain claims, such as “Good Source of Whole Grains” and “Excellent Source of Whole Grains.”
For the same reason, FSIS cannot approve labels that imply the levels of whole grains in a product are high or that place significance on a specific level of whole grains. The guide cited examples such as “Contains X grams Whole Grains” and “More than X grams of Whole Grains” as being unacceptable. Trademarked uses of such phrases also are forbidden except in the use of a company name in the signature line of a product label, so long as the signature line is normally placed and is not so prominent that it could be misleading.
The FSIS guide did state the agency was willing to allow some whole-grain labeling references. The FSIS will not object to factual statements that do not expressly state or imply a specific level of whole grains, e.g., “Made with 100% Whole Grain brown rice.” Nor has FSIS objected to the use of factual statements that characterize a grain component of a food, e.g., “Made with Whole Wheat Spaghetti” and “Made with Whole Wheat Bread,” as long as the FDA's Title 21 standards are met.
The guideline also allows some references to whole-grain content in conjunction with MyPyramid recommendations so long as the statements are not misleading to consumers. An acceptable example cited by the guide is “One whole-grain ounce equivalent per serving, MyPyramid recommends at least three one-ounce equivalents of whole grains per day.”
As efforts proceed to capitalize on consumer interest in eating whole-grain products, greater clarity in government regulations should be forthcoming.
www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/flgragui.html — FDA's “Draft Guidance on Whole-grain Label Statements”