Past PRSA Chair Leads Kind’s Response to FDA Challenge

What does the "healthy" label really mean?

KIND-300x300The FDA’s regulation (and lack thereof) of certain terms used on food labels has been a frequent topic of discussion here at PRNewser; while some buzzwords are closely regulated (like “healthy”), others (like “all natural”) go unchecked.

This is the reason that products containing genetically modified ingredients and copious amounts of MSG can promote themselves as “natural,” while fairly nutritious items — like Kind Bars — find themselves in the FDA’s crosshairs.

This week, the FDA took action against Kind Snacks, which prides itself on using only “ingredients you can see and pronounce,” because some of the company’s granola bars do not meet the agency’s standards for the use of labeling terms like “healthy” and “+.”

Specifically, bars called Fruit & Nut Almond & Apricot, Fruit & Nut Almond & Coconut, Plus Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate + Protein, and Fruit & Nut Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew exceed the amount of saturated fat allowed by the FDA’s standards of “healthy.” The FDA standard is less than 1 gram, while the snacks in question contain between 2 and 3.5 grams. Further, the “+” label is supposed to indicate that an item contains at least 10 percent of daily recommended nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and fiber, which the bars named by the FDA do not.

But just because these products don’t meet the requirements for calling themselves “healthy,” does that actually mean they’re unhealthy?

Spokesman and industry veteran Joe Cohen — who was SVP at MWW before leaving for Kind last year and currently serves as Immediate-Past Chair of the National PRSA — says no. His statement to Bloomberg:

“Nuts, key ingredients in many of our snacks and one of the things that make fans love our bars, contain nutritious fats that exceed the amount allowed under the FDA’s standard…There is an overwhelming body of scientific evidence supporting that nuts are wholesome, nutritious and healthful”

Some health specialists agree with him.

Dr. Walter Willett, Chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told the Huffington Post that the FDA’s action against KIND Bars for saturated fat is “well-intentioned but absurd.” He went on to say:

“It’s a bit ridiculous that saturated fat from nuts should be counted against a product, because nuts are about one of the healthiest choices you could possibly make. This is an example of something with good intentions based on concepts that are hugely obsolete.”

While Kind itself isn’t going so far as to call the FDA’s standards bad names like “obsolete,” its response to the agency’s action assures customers that its snacks are not only safe, but nutritious — all the while playing nice with the administration:

“Please know that there are no quality or safety issues relating to our snack foods or their ingredients. KIND snacks remain a safe and nutritious choice for our fans and their families…Our team at KIND is fully committed to working alongside the FDA, and we’re moving quickly to comply with its request…We couldn’t be more proud of our snack foods and their nutritional benefits.”

While Mr. Cohen could not be reached for further comment this morning, we believe his response to be fairly comprehensive.