Egads! Just when I thought that the presidential campaign had demonstrated how weird a year 2016 could be, the FDA announced yesterday that it was going to tackle the definition of the word “healthy.” Is that nuts or what?
Actually, the move does partly have its origin in nuts — the nuts found in KIND snack bars. Thanks to a decades old perspective of what healthy should be, one that goes back to 1993 and considers all fat bad, the FDA took issue with Kind’s use of the phrase “healthy and tasty” on its snack bars earlier this year.
Daniel Lubetzky, KIND’s ceo, couldn’t swallow the fact that the FDA had issued a complaint against the company’s claim, particularly when the nutritional profile of nuts, as measured by today’s scientific standards, was a particularly stellar one.
So Lubetzky and Kind pushed back. And the FDA, upon weighing all the facts, rescinded its complaint against the company. But Lubetzky didn’t stop there; he — through Kind — launched a citizen’s petition asking that the FDA update its standards regarding what’s healthy and what’s not.
I’m not exactly sure that’s what prompted the FDA to say it will attempt to define healthy. Officially, in its six-page industry guidance document, the agency said rules for the Nutrition Facts label, updated in May, as well as suggestions outlined in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, prompted it to take another look at certain product claims.
Nonetheless, I’m certain Lubetzky and Kind played a role.
As our corresponding news blurb points out, redefining “healthy,” is part of the FDA’s overall plan to provide consumers with information that will allow them to make quick, easy food choices that correspond with public health recommendations. The agency also hopes to encourage the food industry to develop and introduce “healthier” products.
I’m always leery of any declarations that contain the words “quick and easy,” particularly in an election year. As I’ve always maintained, the last chapter on food nutrition still remains to be written, with us mere mortals only grasping on how diet, lifestyle, stress and heredity play a role.
One only needs to recall the Snackwells craze during the 1990s. The fat-free, sugar-rich cakes prompted consumers to overindulge, since anything “fat-free” couldn’t make you fat, could it?
Hopefully, consumer education over the years has made everyone a bit smarter when making food choices.
As for encouraging manufacturers to develop and introduce “healthier” products, anyone going to a food show these days can attest to the fact that’s a major theme already.
Defining healthy will be a challenging task for the FDA, as is its goal of defining natural. (The FDA has also taken on that project.) I guess one has to start somewhere. One would think that common sense would dictate what’s healthy and natural. But then, common sense isn’t so common these days.
So kudos to the FDA for acknowledging that nutritional science has progressed since the 1990s and that it’s time for some new guidelines. Just try to keep some common sense in developing the guidelines, particularly when it comes to confections.
And kudos to Lubetzky and KIND for sticking to and defending their raison d’etre. My only fear is that you have to be careful what you ask for because you just might get it. We’ll see how this turns out.
Finally, when we’re speaking of kudos and common sense, I tip my hat — couldn’t resist the baseball pennant race analogy — to the folks at Mars/Wrigley.
After Donald Trump Jr. tweeted out the message, “If I had a bowl of skittles and I told you three would kill you, would you take a handful? That’s our Syrian refugee problem,” Wrigley responded by simply saying, “Skittles are candy. Refugees are people. We don’t feel it is an appropriate analogy.”
Not only ‘nuff said, but eloquently done so.