The FDA's New 'Healthy' Food Requirements Will Transform The Freezer Aisle

For years, we've been taking food labels at face value. Food marked as organic or all-natural must be good for us, right? And any product emblazoned with the word "healthy" must actually be healthy? In theory, sure, but in reality, the truth isn't so simple.

This is precisely why the FDA intends to crack down on food labels. The industry's current definition of "healthy" was set in 1994, and as we all know, science has advanced a lot since then. Now, with a better understanding of humans' dietary needs and restrictions, the FDA has proposed stricter guidelines for "healthy" labeling.

Needless to say, these changes may have catastrophic effects for some freezer food brands, particularly Healthy Choice, whose products are already toeing the line on what it means for food to be "healthy." But what kinds of changes are we looking at, exactly, and how might these changes affect consumers' go-to brands?

New FDA guidelines spell trouble for major brands

According to the proposed FDA guidelines, foods should meet certain criteria in order to be labeled as "healthy." These include foods containing "a certain amount of a food group" — like veggies, fruits, grains, etc. — and limited amounts of added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium. That should sound pretty reasonable to consumers, knowing that labels will be more trustworthy, but for manufacturers, this is a nightmare.

Healthy Choice, for instance, currently accounts for about 60% of the "healthy" foods market, but it faces a major rebrand and stands to lose a lot of sales if the FDA's proposal goes through. That being said, other major brands could also suffer under any updated nutritional guidelines. Per The Washington Post, Campbell Soup has a problem with the sodium restriction, while nearly all cereal brands take issue with the limits on sugar. Even Honey Nut Cheerios, advertised as "healthy," contain 12 grams of sugar per serving, or about a third of your daily limit as recommended by the AHA.

At the end of the day, as challenging as these new policies might be for companies to innovate around, consumers will likely appreciate any newfound transparency in food labeling.