We would like to start selling a European legume (similar to chick peas - but much healthier) in the United States.

The packager wants approval from an "official" body before letting us write that it is easily digested [and the many local doctors and specialists do not count].

I have gathered that the FDA is not accessible [we would like to start selling yesterday] and not even well trusted.

Is there any organization that we can pay to research and approve the food (it should be easy) - an organization that will be respected by the consumer, and will make the packager happy that we have a document to back us up?

  • You're asking about making health claims about a food, and health is off topic here (see the faq). (Of course, I don't really see why you can't just sell it without the health claims...)
    – Cascabel
    Nov 27 '12 at 23:29
  • Where did you learn of these and their health benefits and other factors? That might be your starting point. Nov 28 '12 at 2:40
  • @MargeGunderson - It's a rather accepted fact - you feel 'light' after eating a bowl instead of feeling bloated. I have seen a web-sites that make the claim about how this lentil is a wonder food; healthy, easily digestible, high in all the B's etc. But none quote a source.
    – SamGoody
    Nov 28 '12 at 8:33
  • Sorry, we cannot give legal advice here, and the question of what you are allowed to write on a packaging is clearly a legal issue. I am closing this as off-topic.
    – rumtscho
    Nov 28 '12 at 12:25

I googled

usa food import safety consultants

One of the results:


  • 1
    It doesn't sound like the OP is actually asking about safety, but rather "health" as in "healthiness" - he wants to say that the food is easily digested, whatever that means.
    – Cascabel
    Nov 28 '12 at 0:48
  • Exactly. Most beans are relatively difficult to digest so this is important. And digestion is quantifiable: besides formal studies, you feel different after eating a meal of these than you would after eating "cholent"
    – SamGoody
    Nov 28 '12 at 8:25

Basically, you're opening yourself to a can of worms if you make health claims in connection with your product. Direct health claims can and often will be investigated with skepticism by the FDA. And though FDA's teeth aren't that powerful when it comes to internal agricultural products or foods, they do have veto power over any food import, and they can cause delays by requiring inspections or other red tape that can result in ridiculous storage costs for you or your US-based import merchant.

Companies that do include health claims on their packaging, even vague ones like "aids digestion", do so in one of three ways: 1) They rely on association of their product with certain allowed "qualified health claims", like "a low fat diet is proven to be blahblahblah", and nutrient content claims like "this is a low fat product." 2) They go through a lengthy process of providing the evidence that the FDA requires to make a novel health claim by filing a Qualified Health Claim Petition. or 3) They skirt the issue with innuendo and ambiguous claims, or customer testimonials, hoping that the FDA won't notice/care/intervene.

When I imported food products, I bristled even at the rather mundane health claims that, for example, tea companies wanted to put on their labels, because many times these claims created more trouble (risk) for me, the importer and merchandiser of those products, than they helped from a marketing perspective. Obviously, for some companies the equation is different, and that's why there are so many sketchy "energy drinks" or "nutritional supplements" with questionable health claims on the market. You can find a fair number of publicly documented cease and desist letters from the FDA in these categories, and I encourage you to look some up to see what the consequences can be if you do this wrong.

You can certainly fund scientific studies by working with a reputable lab or university department; that may give you enough legs to make an ambiguous health claim that will escape attention long enough for you to fund more research. But taking shortcuts here is of questionable ethics and borderline legality. You're better off promoting the food from some other angle unless you have really firm research to stand on.

It's perfectly legitimate (and an interesting origin story) to have the packaging focus on whatever heirloom variety that you happen to be offering. Or you can stand on something that is easily demonstrable with a nutritional analysis that you'll need to have on the package if you sell more than $x of product per year, where x, if I remember correctly is about $50k); perhaps its high fiber content, or high protein content, or whatever. You can focus on subjective attributes, like texture or flavor.

But if you're about to build a business based on the successful, reliable importation of the product to the US, it's generally not advisable to taunt the FDA, whatever you think of them.

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