FDA To Health Food Companies: The Word ‘Healthy’ Has An Actual Meaning

Image courtesy of (Mike Mozart)

Kind bars are quite tasty, but are they healthy? Sure, they’re made from ostensibly healthy ingredients like nuts and dried fruit, but some bars also have ingredients like chocolate and peanut butter. The Food and Drug Administration sent the company a warning letter about their use of the word “healthy” to describe their snacks on the label.

Of course the FDA has rules about who can plaster the word “healthy” on their packaging: they also have rules about which products are allowed to call themselves peanut butter and ice cream. Unlike “natural,” which seems to be a meaningless marketing buzzword when it comes to food, the FDA will catch up with companies that label their products as “healthy.” Eventually.

In the case of Kind’s products, it was their saturated fat content that caught the FDA’s attention.

In accordance with 21 CFR 101.65(d)(2), you may use the term “healthy” as an implied nutrient content claim on the label or in the labeling of a food provided that the food, among other things, is “low saturated fat” as defined in 21 CFR 101.62(c)(2)

That would mean that the item has one gram or less of saturated fat per serving, or that 15% of its calories or fewer come from saturated fat. That isn’t the case with Kind bars. A company representative explained to Bloomberg News that this is because the bars are made from nuts, which contain “healthy fats.” That may be true, and the FDA’s regulations may need updating with more current information about health and nutrition, but food on the market now has to follow current regulations.

Bragg, a venerable brand in the natural foods world, also received its own warning letter about its use of the term “healthy” on the label. The FDA also objected to the product being labeled “no additives.” Why? You can see them turn on the bureaucratic snark:

Your product bears the claim “No Additives[.]” To the extent that this claim means that your Bragg Healthy Vinaigrette product contains no added substances, we note that the list of ingredients on your product label indicates that the product is composed of more than one ingredient, and therefore that the product contains added substances.

Can’t argue with that.

Kind has responded to the FDA, and will need to change the packaging of its products or risk having them pulled from store shelves.

KIND, LLC 3/17/15 [FDA Compliance Letters]

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