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The New Year means many people have made resolutions to be healthier. For them to be successful, it means paying close attention to what is in their diet. After more than twenty years, the FDA is finally paying attention too.
Sometimes this will require reading nutritional labels. How much protein, sugar, or fat are there in these foods? It may also mean checking the labels and claims found on the front of a food packaging, such as ‘healthy,’ ‘fat free,’ and ‘a good source of…’
To prevent food companies from misleading consumers, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines many of these nutritional claims. For example, in general, a food product may be labeled ‘healthy’ only if it has “1 gram or less of saturated fat per serving and gets no more than 15 percent of its calories from saturated fat.”
The agency does enforce these rules. In 2015, the FDA sent a warning letter to KIND stating that some of their bars — The Kind Fruit & Nut Almond & Apricot and The Kind Plus Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate + Protein, for example — did not meet legal definition of ‘healthy’ as claimed on their wrapper. The FDA cited that the level of saturated fat in these bars exceeded the amount allowed for a product to be labeled as “healthy,” as defined by 21 CFR 101.62(c)(2).
KIND later explained in a statement that the reason why the bars did not meet the definition of ‘healthy’ was due the use of nuts as a major ingredient. Nuts have a fair amount of saturated fats and in this case, the amount exceeded the ‘healthy’ standard.
But nuts are now known for being good for you. They are high in monounsaturated fat and shown to have health benefits such as reducing the risk of heart disease.
Due to the advances made in nutritional science, KIND urged the FDA to redefine ‘healthy.’ They stated:
“The current regulation was established 20 + years ago. Under it foods like nuts, salmon and avocados cannot be labeled as healthy, but items like fat-free pudding and low-fat toaster pastries can.”
The FDA decided last year it was time to update the term ‘healthy.’ They explained, based on the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the “public health recommendations for various nutrients have evolved." Adding:
“Healthy dietary patterns now focus on food groups, the type of fat rather than the total amount of fat consumed and now address added sugars in the diet.”
It is eventually expected that products with nuts and avocados, which contain “good fats,” will meet the new definition of ‘healthy.’
The agency is asking the public what for them constitutes ‘healthy.' Public comments are opened and will be collected until the end of April.