ASTA Press Release: February 16, 2023

For Immediate Release
Media Contact:

Laura Shumow Executive Director, ASTA
[email protected]

American Spice Trade Association Asks FDA to Include Spices in its Definition of “Healthy” Foods

FDA’s proposed definition of “healthy” currently excludes spices, despite the numerous benefits they provide as part of a healthy, balanced diet

WASHINGTON – The American Spice Trade Association (ASTA) submitted comments today to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requesting the agency include spices under its definition of “healthy” foods.

Last September, FDA proposed updating regulations to define what foods qualify to use the term “healthy” in labeling. Spices and herbs were notably excluded, despite being consistently recognized for their health benefits by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). Like the DGA, many governmental and nutritional authorities note how spices and herbs help consumers build healthier diets by making foods taste better, reducing added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium intake, and encouraging the consumption of more nutrient-dense foods such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.

“Including herbs and spices in the ‘healthy’ definition would help achieve FDA’s goals to align labeling regulations with the Dietary Guidelines and help consumers make healthier choices,” said ASTA Executive Director Laura Shumow. “Herbs and spices contain a wide variety of health-promoting properties. Beyond improving nutrition, a growing body of research shows that culinary spices and herbs may benefit heart, metabolic, and gut health, cognition, cancer prevention, and weight management. Plus, by adding flavor and embodying an important part of cultural and culinary traditions, they promote accessible and inclusive dietary patterns.”

Spices and herbs also promote healthy dietary patterns by helping to close gaps between nutrition recommendations and everyday eating habits. More than 90 percent of the U.S. population doesn’t eat enough vegetables. Flavor enhancement by adding spices and herbs has led to increased vegetable consumption across various age groups.

For example, one study examined high school students’ vegetable consumption in an economically underserved urban area. Before the study, participating students reported consuming just 20 percent of the 2.5 cup-equivalent vegetable intake recommended by the DGA. The researchers reported that vegetable intake during lunchtime increased by 18.2 percent when spices and herbs were added during the preparation of the vegetables. Vegetable consumption increases as high as 115 percent for carrots and 81.7 percent for mixed broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower were reported when seasoned with spices and herbs.

Another study evaluated the consumption of various raw vegetables by preschool-aged children. The researchers found that the intake of raw vegetables significantly increased when they were served with a reduced-fat dip flavored with spices and herbs compared to the raw vegetable alone or when served with a plain dip. Further, preschoolers’ liking of vegetables significantly increased when paired with the herb dip.

These studies, among others, have demonstrated that consumers are significantly more likely to purchase vegetables and other healthful foods seasoned with spices and herbs than raw or steamed, unseasoned alternatives.