By Richard Thompson
KIND bars are healthy and the Food and Drug Administration should allow the labels to reflect that, according to KIND, LLC. Last year, the FDA sent a warning letter to KIND stating that the company’s labels on four of its products were misleading, resulting in label changes to comply with FDA regulations. In December, though, KIND sent a citizen’s petition to the FDA requesting a new look at how the term “healthy” is defined. While the FDA reviews the company’s request, KIND asserts that by updating the definition of “healthy” to reflect current dietary and nutritional understanding, not only will its products warrant the use of the term, but consumers won’t continue to be confused about what foods are truly healthy to eat.
“Under FDA’s current application of food labeling regulations, whether or not a food can be labeled ‘healthy’ is based on specific nutrient levels in the food rather than its overall nutritional quality,” reads KIND’s citizen petition. “This is despite the fact that current science no longer supports those standards.”
Said Joe Cohen, SVP of Communication at KIND, “We’re proud of the ingredients in our products, which contain wholesome ingredients like fruits, nuts, seeds and whole grains.” He added, “We will continue to work with the FDA to ensure our products are in compliance with the regulations.”
“Without commenting specifically on the KIND citizen petition,” said Doug Balentine, Ph. D., Director of the Office of Nutrition and Food Labeling at the FDA, “The FDA recognizes that a great deal of scientific research has been conducted since the regulation defining the term ‘healthy’ was developed and we understand the interest in potentially redefining the term.” The agency’s ultimate determination will be based on the reevaluation of food labeling terms as additional scientific research and other data becomes available based on public health impact.
For the last 20 years, the definition of what’s healthy has been changing as more recent research shows that nutritional content is not the only indicator in determining what a healthy food is. Scientific evidence found in the U.S. Government’s “2010 Dietary Guidelines” and the “Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee” – both of which KIND heavily refers to in its citizen petition – concludes that eating a healthy diet is constituted by the maintenance of caloric intake for a healthy weight and that a healthy eating pattern emphasizes nutrient-dense foods and vegetables like fruit, nuts and whole grains.
According to KIND, the best way to rectify consumers’ confusion over nutritional content and healthful qualities of a product would be to create a dietary guidelines statement on the packaging that informs on the “usefulness of a food, or a category of foods, in maintaining healthy dietary practices” without making an explicit nutrient content claim or a statement about a particular nutrient.
Until a decision is made, KIND says that a “dietary guidance statement” from the FDA is in order so that food companies can better label their products with information that indicates the usefulness of a food “that is not subject to the requirements in FDA’s nutrient content claim regulations unless it is an implied nutrient content claim.”
The FDA appears to disagree, and Balentine said that there is more to labeling restrictions than how one company is affected by them. For now, companies need to continue following the standards laid out by the FDA so that the term means the same thing from product to product. Said Balentine, “That’s the only way that consumers can trust what’s on the label.”