The Food and Drug Administration has issued draft guidance on what the term “whole grain” may include.

The FDA document clarifies that the agency considers “whole grain” to include cereal grains that consist of the intact, ground, cracked or flaked fruit of the grains whose principal components – the starchy endosperm, germ and bran – are present in the same relative proportions as they exist in the intact grain. Such grains may include barley, buckwheat, bulgur, corn, millet, rice, rye, oats, sorghum, wheat and wild rice.

The draft guidance states that although rolled and “quick oats” can be called “whole grains” because they contain all of their bran, germ and endosperm, other widely used food products may not meet the “whole grain” definition. For example, FDA does not consider products derived from legumes (soybeans), oilseeds (sunflower seeds) and roots (arrowroot) as “whole grains.” The draft guidance specifically recommends that pizza only be labelled as “whole grain” or “whole wheat” when its crust is made entirely from whole grain flour or whole wheat flour, respectively.

“The food label is the best tool we have to help consumers choose a healthy diet, which includes whole grain products,” said Dr. Robert E. Brackett, director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

Robert Earl, MPH, RD, senior director of nutrition for the Food Products Association (FPA), said: “Communicating about the whole grain content of foods is important for food companies, so this guidance by the Food and Drug Administration has been eagerly awaited. Today, FDA has clearly defined what is and what is not a whole grain.

“FPA believes that the food label should deliver information to inform consumers about ways that whole grain or whole grain containing foods meet dietary recommendations and fit into healthful life styles. We strongly support science-based nutrition information and its potential to make a significant contribution to promoting the health and well-being of Americans.

“FPA will be consulting with our members to develop a response to FDA’s draft guidance and propose any recommendations for ways to effectively communicate to consumers about whole grains and diet and health.”