Industry Lacks Standard Definition of ‘Whole Grain’
The health benefits of ‘whole grains’ and ‘whole grain foods’ are widely reported, however the messages are clouded by the lack of a legally endorsed, universal global definition of ‘whole grain’, according to an article in the Proceedings of the Nutrition Society by Chris Seal and Iain Brownlee of Newcastle University.
As is often the case, that which sounds like an easy task to accomplish, can be surprisingly complicated. Definitions and standards can vary from market to market, while some countries have no standard definition at all. In 1999, the American Association for Cereal Chemists (AACCI) established the first guideline of what ‘whole grain’ means, stating that for a grain to qualify, the original parts of the grain - the germ, endosperm, and bran, should remain in their natural ratios. But the association failed to state what qualified as a grain, leaving questions about whether soy and other foods were also considered grains.
Recently, the European HealthGrain project worked to establish a re-definition of the term, stating that small losses of grain components due to processing were acceptable, but upheld that that natural ratio of grain components must remain. The project also established an extensive list of foods that qualify as grains, pseudograins, and wild rice.
Disagreements have also arisen over what qualifies a food as ‘whole grain’. A majority of definitions claims that to qualify as a ‘whole grain’ food, half its weight must be derived from whole grain sources. But questions have arisen as to whether this should be determined using the dry weight of the food product, or whether it should be based on the product’s ingredients. If the definition is based on the dry weight of the product, it could eliminate some products such as breads, whole grain pastas, or cereals that absorb milk or water.