The petition requests better alignment between food labeling regulations, the latest nutrition science and federal dietary guidelines. The petition reflects broad support within the food science and nutrition community to call attention to the importance of eating real foods made with wholesome and nutrient-rich ingredients as part of a healthy diet.
FDA issued a Warning letter to KIND earlier this year regarding the “healthy” labeling of its signature bars.
Currently, FDA mandates that the term healthy only be used as a nutrient content claim to describe foods that contain 3 grams or less total fat and 1 gram or less of saturated fat per serving, with the exception of 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. Today’s regulations preclude nutrient-rich foods such as nuts, avocados, olives and salmon from using the term healthy as a nutrient content claim.
“KIND, with the support from top global nutrition and public health experts, is respectfully urging the FDA to update its current regulations surrounding the use of the word healthy as a nutrient content claim. Our goal is to highlight the importance of following a healthy diet that includes foods made with wholesome and nutrient-dense ingredients,” said Daniel Lubetzky, founder and CEO of KIND.
“The current regulations were created with the best intentions when the available science supported dietary recommendations limiting total fat intake. However, current science tells us that the unsaturated fats in nutrient-dense foods like nuts, seeds and certain fish are beneficial to overall health,” he continued.
Encouraging Better Diets
In addition to requesting updates to the current nutrient content claim regulations, KIND is also asking FDA to implement a framework for regulating dietary guidance statements. Dietary guidance statements are different from nutrient content claims and would provide simple communications about the overall nutritional benefits of a food as part of a healthy diet. One example of a dietary guidance statement could be “eating nuts has been shown to be part of a healthy diet.”
The idea of using dietary guidance statements to educate consumers is not a new concept. The 2003 final report from the Task Force for the Consumer Health Information for Better Nutrition Initiative (CHIBNI) encouraged the use of information on general dietary patterns, practices, and recommendations that promote health. “Such general guidance can help encourage better nutrition,” the Task Force concluded in its final report.
“Educating consumers about key components of a healthful diet is essential for public health and I am proud to support KIND as they launch this effort,” said David Katz, MD, MPH, FACPM, FACP, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center and senior nutrition advisor to KIND.
“Unfortunately, the current regulatory approach for food labeling claims limits the ability of food producers to tell consumers that products containing certain ingredients—such as nuts, whole grains, seafood, fruits and vegetables—are healthy and are recommended as part of a beneficial diet,” Dr. Katz continued. “The changes KIND is requesting would facilitate such communication and help Americans better understand how to choose nutritious foods more often.”
Today, regulations require that the majority of foods featuring a healthy nutrient content claim meet “low fat” and “low saturated fat” standards regardless of their nutrient density. Under current regulations, foods such as certain fat-free puddings and sugary cereals have the ability to use the word healthy as a nutrient content claim on their labels. This regulation, along with other federal standards that focus specifically on dietary fat, has caused food manufacturers to market products that are low in fat, but otherwise lack any nutrient density. The below chart provides a few examples of what foods do and do not meet qualifications for healthy labeling under this regulation.