Fourteen months ago, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent a letter to the CEO of KIND LLC, a company that makes snack bars from fruits and nuts, warning that KIND’s use of the word “healthy” in product marketing falls outside of the official definition of the word as specified by law.

“[Y]ou 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,’” the letter reads. The FDA then defines food with “low saturated fat” as “food [that] has a saturated fat content of 1 g or less per Reference Amount Customarily Consumed (RACC).”

The FDA claims that, among other complaints, KIND bars contain more than 1 g of saturated fat per RACC and are thus misinforming consumers and breaking the law.

KIND bar in its packaging. (Source: KIND)

KIND bar in its packaging. (Source: KIND)

In response, KIND filed a citizen petition arguing that the FDA’s definition of “healthy” is bogus and that they should be able to use the word on their packaging and marketing materials. KIND argued that the most up to date Dietary Guidelines emphasize the importance of eating a wholesome and healthy diet rather than focusing on the content of specific nutrients, which was the focus of outdated Dietary Guidelines.

KIND pleaded with the FDA to redefine the food labeling requirements so that they reflect the advice in the Dietary Guidelines, which would mean assessing where certain fats come from rather than a one-size-fits all policy for everything from donuts to avocados.

This week the FDA publicly announced that it has reassessed the law and will allow KIND to use the word “healthy” in terms of its “corporate philosophy,” but not in relation to nutritional content.

The government organization also acknowledged that based on “evolving nutrition research, forthcoming Nutrition Facts Labeling final rules, and a citizen petition, we believe now is an opportune time to reevaluate regulations concerning nutrient content claims, generally, including the term ‘healthy.’ We plan to solicit public comment on these issues in the near future.”

KIND isn’t the only company that has had trouble with its labeling requirements. Plant-based food companies are dealing with FDA restriction regarding the use of the word “cheese” in non-dairy product labels. The Plant Based Food Association argues that it’s time the FDA “level the playing field” in terms of what healthy and environmentally sustainable food companies are permitted to say when marketing their products.

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