FDA reverses ruling, allows KIND to label bars ‘healthy’
Company says ruling highlights the inconsistency in FDA's regulation on how the label can be used.
KIND Healthy Snacks has announced that the FDA has ruled that it can use the term "healthy" on its packaging.
This ruling marks a reversal in the FDA's position. A year ago, it issued a warning letter to KIND requesting the removal of the word "healthy" from the back panel of four KIND wrappers and its website.
The FDA's most recent acknowledgment comes after much public conversation among health and nutrition leaders about how the term "healthy" can be used on food labels, and why the agency's 20-year-old standards are due for an update, the company says.
"At KIND, healthy has always been more than just a word on a label, so when we were asked to remove the term from our wrappers, it cut to the core of who we are," says Daniel Lubetzky, founder and ceo. "While we're pleased the FDA affirmed that KIND can put 'healthy' back on our wrappers, just as we had it before, it doesn't change what always has been and will remain our focus — to create delicious snacks made with wholesome ingredients."
When the FDA first requested that KIND remove the word last year, the company complied, but maintained that its usage wasn't a nutrient content claim.
In seeking to better understand the regulation in question, KIND found that snack foods labeled "healthy" as a nutrient content claim can't have more than 3 g. of total fat or 1 g. of saturated fat per serving. Nuts, a primary ingredient in KIND bars, contain nutritious fats that exceed the amount allowed under this standard.
The company also found that the regulation precludes foods generally considered beneficial — nuts, avocados and salmon — from being labeled as "healthy," while allowing fat-free chocolate pudding, some sugary cereals, and low-fat toaster pastries to be labeled as such.
"The current regulatory definition of healthy is inconsistent with federal guidelines and scientific research, as today we know it's advisable to prioritize eating whole foods, including nuts, plants, whole grains and seafood," says David L. Katz, MD, MPH, FACPM, FACP, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, who has served as a nutrition adviser to KIND.
"I applaud KIND for entering the policy conversation, their commitment to public health, and their appropriate focus on food over nutrients,” he adds. “I applaud the FDA, as well, for acknowledging that sometimes, companies get it right, while regulations, however well intended, can fall out of date."
In December 2015, KIND filed a Citizen Petition urging the FDA to update its requirements related to the term "healthy" to emphasize the importance of eating real foods and nutrient-dense ingredients as part of a healthy eating pattern. The company hopes the petition will help facilitate the delivery of clear and consistent dietary guidance.
"While we've made strides toward positive change on the policy and consumer education fronts, our work remains far from done," Lubetzky says. "A true success will come when the healthy standard is updated, empowering consumers to better identify the types of food recommended as part of a healthy diet."