(Jan. 6) An apple a day, in addition to keeping the doctor away, may be just what the doctor ordered.

With more lenient rules on marketing health claims in the works, such a mentality — suggesting to consumers that they can improve their health through fresh produce consumption — may prove a boon.

The Food and Drug Administration in mid-December indicated it would lower the threshold for food items to carry so-called “qualified health claims.” Essentially, this means there is no consensus on the nutritional merits of the product but that there is evidence to suggest the food has some health benefits.

Of course, the FDA will still have final say over whether a company can use a particular claim.

Importantly, this levels the field with the dietary supplements industry, which has gotten away with some dubious claims. The FDA has clamped down on those claims recently, and the produce industry surely would be subjected to similar scrutiny for any claims it would make — deservedly so.

The key is to avoid any health claims that are a stretch. If a person has to eat 400 servings of an item to meet his or her daily quota for vitamin X, the media will eventually point out there are better ways to get vitamin X. This throws mixed signals at consumers.

That fresh fruits and vegetables are indeed a vital part of a balanced diet is no secret. The secret is in telling consumers how your product can become a valued, long-term component in their diets.

The successful plan requires claims that are well grounded and marketing that doesn’t shortsightedly shoot for the moon.