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Nutrition experts debate FDA’s move to redefine 'healthy' as a marketing label

Nutrition labels are seen on food packaging in Miami, Florida.
Nutrition labels are seen on food packaging in Miami, Florida.
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The public comment period has opened for what the Food And Drug Administration should label as “healthy,” sparked by a letter the FDA sent to the maker of Kind bars last year demanding Kind stop using the term to market its product.

Kind bars, which contain nuts that contribute to the high amount of saturated fat in some of their bars, do not fit the FDA’s current definition of “healthy.” Food can only be marketed as healthy if it meets five criteria: fat, saturated fat, sodium, cholesterol and beneficial nutrients, such as vitamin C or Calcium.

The levels differ by food category, but snacks generally can’t have more than 3 grams of fat. By those standards, a pop tart is currently considered more healthy than a snack of almonds.

It remains to be seen what the new guidelines will detail, but they’re sure to leave some people upset, whether it’s industry members who can no longer use the “healthy” label to market their product, or people concerned that the guidelines don’t do far enough in regulating how products are labeled and marketed to consumers.


Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University

Kathleen Keller, Phd, Assistant Professor, Department of Nutritional Sciences and Food Science at Penn State University