FDA: Dairy Labels to Tout Bone Health

US - The Food and Drug Administration today announced a final rule that allows food and dietary supplement health claims to tout the role that calcium and Vitamin D together play in reducing the risk of osteoporosis.
calendar icon 2 October 2008
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The rule will allow lowfat and fat-free milk and other eligible dairy products to display a health claim that states, "Physical activity and adequate calcium and vitamin D throughout life, as part of a well-balanced diet, may reduce the risk of osteoporosis," or "may build and maintain good bone health."

International Dairy Food Association (IDFA) submitted comments to FDA earlier this year voicing strong support for this change. IDFA also encouraged the agency to shorten the required claim language to simplify product label information and make it more consumer friendly.

"Everyone knows that calcium is important for strong bones, but the new FDA health claim now gives milk and dairy processors a powerful tool to reinforce the bone-building nutrient package of lowfat milk, yogurt and some cheese," said Cary Frye, IDFA vice president of regulatory affairs. "Processors should leverage this new claim on packages to remind consumers that dairy products, rather than supplements or fortified beverages, should be their preferred choice for these important nutrients, which can protect them from brittle bones and breaks that occur with osteoporosis."

IDFA is creating a hotline announcement for members that will detail how they can use the new claim to tout the health benefits of dairy products. The rule is scheduled to take effect in 2010.

According to the federal government, more than 70% of the calcium in our nation's food supply comes from milk and milk products. Milk and many dairy products are also excellent sources of vitamin D, a necessary nutrient for the body to properly absorb calcium and help maintain bone strength. During the past few years, many yogurt companies also have chosen to fortify yogurt products with Vitamin D.

Milk was one of the first foods to be fortified with vitamin D, starting in the 1930s when an industry-wide program was initiated to prevent infantile rickets, a children's bone disease related to vitamin D deficiency. This practice virtually eradicated the disease in the United States.

Other foods that are excellent sources of vitamin D and calcium also qualify for this health claim, as long as they supply at least 200 mg of calcium and 80 international units (IU) of vitamin D per serving. Milk and milk products are optimal choices, however, because they contain additional nutrients that are essential for building and maintaining strong bones, such as protein, phosphorus, magnesium and potassium.

However, products containing high levels of fat, saturated fat, sodium or cholesterol are still not allowed to use the health claim.

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