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FDA Defines Meaning Of 'Whole Grain'

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued new guidelines Wednesday to help people figure out which bread or cereal meets the government's recommendations for eating heart-healthy whole grains.

Pizza or bagels labeled as "whole grain" or "whole wheat" should have dough made entirely from whole wheat or whole grain flour, FDA said. "Whole grains" are cereal grains including corn, rice, oats and wheat, and they must be intact, ground, cracked or flaked, according to FDA.

Consumers need a consistent definition for whole grains, said Barbara Schneeman, director of the FDA's office of nutritional products, labeling and dietary supplements.

"Using the term multigrain or seven-grain doesn't necessarily mean that product contains whole grains," she said.

Government dietary guidelines say three servings of whole grains daily will reduce the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. A serving is about an ounce — a half-cup of oatmeal, a slice of bread, a cup of cold cereal flakes.

It's the first time FDA has tried to define whole grains, although the new definition raises questions as well as answers. FDA recently turned down a request from General Mills, maker of Wheaties and other well-known cereals, to say what constitutes an "excellent source" or a "good source" of whole grains.

Both claims are common on packages throughout supermarkets, and FDA was unclear about whether it wants them removed. "We would have to look at a particular product to understand whether something is being used appropriately," Schneeman said.

Libby Quaid

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