You say “healthy,” the FDA says not so fast. In March 2015, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) sent the snack company KIND a warning letter saying some of its bars—like the Fruit & Nut Almond & Apricot bar and the Fruit & Nut Almond & Coconut—couldn’t be called “healthy” because they contained too much saturated fat to be in line with FDA requirements. But Tuesday, KIND announced that the FDA will now permit the company to use the label “healthy” again. The catch: The company can only use the label so long as it’s “presented as its corporate philosophy” and not as a nutrition claim.
KIND bars are known for being made primarily with fruits and nuts, as opposed to granola.
“Following receipt of the closeout letter, KIND requested confirmation that it could use the phrase ‘healthy and tasty’ only in text clearly presented as its corporate philosophy, where it isn’t represented as a nutrient content claim and does not appear on the same display panel as nutrient content claims or nutrition information,” FDA press officer Lauren Kotwicki told Motto. “In our discussions with KIND, we understood the company’s position as wanting to use ‘healthy and tasty’ as part of its corporate philosophy, as opposed to using ‘healthy’ in the context of a nutrient content claim. FDA evaluates the label as a whole and has indicated that in this instance it does not object.”
KIND hasn’t changed the formula of any of its bars, but representatives say that, because the saturated fat in its products comes from ingredients like nuts, they shouldn’t be barred from using the word “healthy,” which is at the heart of its corporate messaging.
Dr. Walter Willett, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, signed a citizen petition created in December 2015 that asked the FDA to rethink its labeling standards. “I regarded this as a test case about the outdated rules that the FDA has been using regarding health claims,” he told Motto. “These are from an era when all fats were regarded as bad and thus all carbohydrates were regarded as good. Thus, many foods loaded with refined starch and sugar have been allowed to be labelled as ‘healthy.’ The FDA needs to review their rules in light of current evidence, and hopefully this will be a nudge in the right direction.”