New York—KIND Healthy Snacks filed a Citizen Petition urging the FDA to update the nutrient content claim regulation, according to a press release, which says that the current regulation looks at quantities of specific nutrients irrespective of the quality of the overall food, enabling food marketers to put health claims on unhealthy products, misleading consumers into believing that those products are healthy.
The release uses as examples sugary cereals and sodium-full frozen dishes, which might call out “high in fiber” or “good source of calcium” while leaving the salt and sugar on the back.
KIND founder and CEO Daniel Lubetzky said in the release, “Dressing up empty calorie products by emphasizing a singular nutrient, like protein or fiber, versus the overall quality of the food is unfair to consumers. By bringing greater rigor to the use of nutrient claims, FDA can increase label transparency and help people better identify foods that contribute to a healthy diet.”
The release cites a survey of registered dietitians (RDs), who “agree it is time to dust off a regulation that was implemented in the 1990s.” According to the survey, 75% of RDs say that the top reason nutrient content claims impact purchases is because their clients/patients believe the food bearing the claim is a healthy item, and 85% of RDs say that they often come across products with nutrient content claims that they would never recommend as part of a healthy diet.
The release cited a second, consumer-based survey, which found that 68% of consumers say that nutrient content claims are important, but 56% of consumers think that FDA should update its regulations to make those claims less misleading.
The petition itself cites Congress’s initial ruling regarding the use of nutrient content claims, which allowed the claims “in order to help consumers make appropriate dietary choices.” The petition notes that the requirements were established based on dietary recommendations at the time, which focused on reduction of saturated fat and cholesterol. According to the petition, “This regulatory framework is now significantly outdated as a result of scientific progress in the nutrition space. It is also demonstrably not effective in actually helping consumers make choices, but instead allows the use of nutrient content claims that mislead consumers.”
The petition requests several actions: a revisal of the FDA’s nutrient content claim regulations to only allow a food to bear a nutrient content claim if the food contains a meaningful amount of at least one health-promoting food, an amendment of an existing rule to include disclosure levels for added sugar and trans fat and to remove disclosure levels for total fat and cholesterol; and to revise nutrient content claim regulations to disqualify non-meal foods that contribute more than 25% of the daily value for saturated fat, sodium, or added sugar.
Food Dive noted in an article that this is not the first time KIND has challenged the FDA: in 2015, when the FDA sent KIND a warning letter saying that its bars shouldn’t be labeled “healthy” because it contained too much saturated fat, which, Food Dive notes, is a natural components of the nuts in the bars. KIND urged FDA to update its regulations, and, as WholeFoods reported, FDA allowed KIND to continue using their slogan “healthy and tasty,” which, according to Lubetzky, was not a nutrient content claim in the first place, but the company’s philosophy.
Food Dive added that the first meeting of the committee working on the 2020 updates to the Dietary Guidelines for American is later this month, making the timing of this petition ideal to bring the issue to the front of committee members’ minds.