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FDA Defines '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 one 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 the 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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