Kind, the maker of the popular snack bars, with support from health and nutrition experts, filed a Citizen Petition urging the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to change the nutrient content claim regulation.
The current regulation on food labels looks at the quantity of a nutrient instead of the quality of the overall food, which enables food marketers to put these claims on unhealthy products, according to a press release. As a result, consumers are led to believe these items are part of a healthy diet and misled into purchasing them.
The petition is the latest development in the battle over food labeling, according to CNBC. In the FDA’s 2018 roadmap under outgoing Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, the regulator said that it wants to help consumers make more informed dietary decisions.
For example, the agency is weighing changes to how plant-based dairy substitutes can use dairy terms after milk producers and others in the industry complained that shoppers were confused, added CNBC.
“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,” says Kind Founder & CEO Daniel Lubetzky. “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, which Kind has long advocated for.”
Registered Dietitians (RDs), who see firsthand the negative impact these claims can have on people, agree it is time to dust off a regulation that was implemented in the 1990s.
According to a new 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;
85% of RDs say that they often come across products with nutrient content claims that they would not recommend as part of a healthy diet.
A survey fielded by Washington DC-based Morning Consult reinforces the role these claims play in consumers’ lives. Specifically, more than 2/3 (68%) of consumers say that nutrient content claims are important when deciding which products to purchase.
While the claims are influential, consumers agree they are not as clear as they could be, with a majority (56%) saying FDA should update its regulation to make nutrient content claims less misleading.
This issue has been recognized by leading public health experts from universities like Yale, Harvard, Columbia, hospitals and organizations, who have co-signed the petition.
The petition presented by Kind is in line with FDA’s 2018 Strategic Policy Roadmap, in which the agency emphasizes its goal to create “better ways of communicating nutrition information to consumers so they can be empowered to make good choices”.
It also supports FDA’s ongoing effort to update the definition of ‘healthy’, Stephanie Csaszar, a Registered Dietitian and Health & Wellness Expert at Kind, explains. “FDA has already taken strides to evolve how ‘healthy’ can be used on food labels. We applaud their work and hope that – by encouraging a holistic view of nutrient content claims – our petition furthers that thinking in a way that is productive and benefits public health.”
In the petition, Kind asks FDA to only allow nutrient content claims on items that contain a meaningful amount of a health-promoting food (such as vegetables, whole fruits, whole grains, legumes and nuts).
Nearly half (45%) of RDs surveyed agree with this request, saying that to make a nutrient content claim a food should contain a significant quantity of foods recommended for healthy eating.
The petition also requests adjustments to current disclosures as well as the addition of a disqualification threshold that would ban unhealthful products from making such claims.