FDA to evaluate 'healthy' food labels

FDA to evaluate 'healthy' food labels
© KINDSnacks

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is allowing Kind snacks to resume using the word "healthy" on its labels as the agency reviews how companies make nutritional claims about their products.

The FDA reversed course after ordering the producer of fruit and nut bars to stop using that term to describe its products last year.

Kind, a New York-based company, filed a petition after receiving that initial order, calling on the FDA to update its 25-year old regulation and define when “healthy” can be used in food labeling.

The FDA responded with a letter to the company last month, saying it could use the word as long as it does not appear on the same panel with nutrient content or nutrition information.

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As The Hill reported last month, the FDA agreed to review the use of nutrient content claims like "healthy" and “natural” after it finalizes a rule updating nutrition fact labels this year.

The agency now mandates that the word “healthy” be used only to describe individual foods that contain 3 grams or less total fat and 1 gram or less of saturated fat per serving. There is an exception for fish and meat, which are required by the regulation to have 5 grams or less total fat and 2 grams or less saturated fat per serving.

An agency official said Tuesday that foods failing to meet all of the current regulatory criteria are “not necessarily unhealthy" but "do not fit the regulatory definition of ‘healthy.' "

“Conversely, just because a food contains certain ingredients that are considered good for you, such as nuts or fruit, it does not mean that the food can bear a ‘healthy’ nutrient content claim."

In November, the FDA asked for the public to weigh in on whether the agency should define the term “natural” and if so, how best to regulate its use on food labels. That public comment period ends today.

Kind said it was pleased the agency decided to review the use of “healthy” but that its work is far from done.

“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,” Kind's founder and CEO, Daniel Lubetzky, said in a statement.