WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday issued a statement that paves the way for food labels on brown rice to carry the following whole grain health claim: "Diets rich in whole grain foods and other plant foods and low in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heat disease and some cancers."
Barbara O. Schneeman, director of the Office of Nutrition, Labeling, and Dietary Supplements for the Department of Health and Human Services within the F.D.A., in response to a notification from Guy Johnson on behalf of the USA Rice Federation, said foods are eligible to carry the claim (originally established in 1999) if they contain 51% or more whole grain ingredients by weight per reference amount customarily consumed.
"Brown rice is a single ingredient whole grain food," Ms. Schneeman wrote. "A single ingredient whole grain food is already 100% whole grain. Thus, meeting a whole grain criterion is irrelevant for single ingredient whole grain foods. For compliance purposes, F.D.A. intends to use the ingredient statement to assess the appropriate use of the claim on single ingredient whole grain foods."
Al Montna, chairman of the USA Rice Federation, called the decision "a milestone event."
"Today, brown rice joins the recognized ranks of healthful foods that are entitled to make this claim," he said. "Having this information on packages of brown rice will help consumers increase whole grain consumption and reduce their risk of heart disease and some cancers."
According to the USA Rice Federation, one half-cup of cooked brown rice contains 2 grams of fiber, as well as 15 vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, selenium and iron.
"Rice is the most popular grain around the world, which makes brown rice a great choice for increasing whole grain intake," said Joann Slavin, Ph.D., R.D., whole grains expert and professor of food science and nutrition at the University of Minnesota. "In the United States, where chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancers are common, encouraging whole grain brown rice consumption could have a significant public health impact."