The FDA is planning to redefine what “healthy” means for the sake of food labels, and the process is a necessary one that could take years to accomplish. The last time the word was evaluated was in 1994, which was still back in the time when fat was considered the enemy over sugar. This means that a lot of high sugar foods snuck into the “healthy” category and have stayed there, while foods that are full of healthy fats.
With that mode of thinking, foods like fish, avocado, and almonds got pushed to the side but low-fat Pop-Tarts, Frosted Flakes, and pudding were considered “healthy.” Clearly we’ve come a long way since then and it’s time to rethink how we label things.
The FDA made a statement to the Wall Street Journal about the decision.
“We believe now is an opportune time to reevaluate regulations concerning nutrient content claims, generally, including the term ‘healthy.'”
To do so they will interestingly also be taking into account the opinions of the general public, which is a gathering process that could take some time, perhaps even years.
We have seen instances where these labeling guidelines have come into question. Last year Kind bars were told that they could not have the healthy level because of the levels of saturated fat that they contain, except that most of the fat is coming from almonds which of course are healthy in the right serving sizes.
The Kind bars removed the healthy label as asked, but recognizing that something was wrong with the process they requested that the agency also update its labeling requirements in light of new dietary recommendations.
Says David Katz, who is the director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center:
“It’s pretty huge. They recognize this is really a problem for public health nutrition. It was never intended to say ‘don’t eat almonds.’ But that effectively is what it’s saying in this instance.”
Just last month the company was told they could put the phrase “healthy and tasty” back on their packaging, but they haven’t decided if they will because of the expenses involved.
The company’s CEO Daniel Lubetzsky said:
“We’re not in a hurry to do it. It’s very energizing to feel that our voices were heard, and the FDA recognizes that the regulation didn’t really make sense.”
Many of us already have a pretty good awareness of what’s healthy and what isn’t without needing the word healthy stamped on a package, but there are plenty of people who could use the distinction and are owed the right information to make informed decisions regarding thir health and well being.