How Big Food Wants the FDA to Define Healthy

Manufacturers of high-fat foods like nuts, eggs, and avocados are thrilled to see their products overcome their history as diet villains. The FDA wants to redefine healthy and these foods can be part of the club.

High levels of fat, sodium and cholesterol prevent foods from using the word “healthy” on packaging. But when the FDA tried to crack down on KIND bars, which are full of nuts and therefore high in fat, KIND responded by telling the FDA that their definition was out of date. Surprisingly, the FDA has agreed with this and is trying to come up with a better definition of the word. They had a meeting last week that posed existential questions such as “What is the public health benefit, if any, of defining the term ‘healthy’ or other similar terms in food labeling?”

The 874 public comments are mostly from private individuals and range from thoughtful to chemical-traumatized. Some grammarists have commented that the word should be “healthy.” Six of the comments were from manufacturers or retailers of high-fat foods that, until recently, did not qualify as “healthy.” Here are some quotes:

  • Manufacturers of Blue Diamond [almonds] : “While the current definition of [healthy] does include some of our foods, it is believed that the definition of healthy should be broadened to include [multicomponent] foods containing almonds.”
  • Nutritional Research and Education Foundation of the International Tree Nutrition Council : “The current FDA rules governing ‘healthy’ statements are outdated and not in line with current US dietary guidelines or the latest scientific research supporting tree nuts for overall health. diet. “
  • Hass Avocado Tip : “Avocados are virtually the only fruit with unsaturated fat and are a great way to help consumers fulfill [dietary guidelines] recommendations for moving from saturated to unsaturated fat.”
  • Egg Nutrition Center (funded by the American Egg Board): “Eggs have been repeatedly identified as ‘nutrient-rich food’ in the most recent [dietary guide], which identified high-nutrient foods as central to a ‘healthy’ diet. … “
  • United Egg Producers : “Eggs are one of the most readily available sources of protein, and they also contain significant amounts of other nutrients, including vitamin D. Other benefits of eggs include ease and speed of preparation, acceptability across a wide range of crops, and popularity among the general public. groups that may require additional protein, such as the elderly due to the risk of sarcopenia. “
  • Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs : “As the owner of [] Pete & Gerry’s Organics LLC, a certified chain of small, free-range family farms, I don’t see much of [United Egg Producers] in sight because we disagree with farming practices. We agree that eggs are very healthy food. ”

Surprisingly, the sugar or candy makers did not advocate for their products. Two other comments from the industry are requests (denied) for a longer comment period. These were the American Herbalife International , which sells slimming shakes , and the Grocery Association , which represents processed food producers.

I have to respect the FDA for tackling this issue at all. Healthy is such a bombastic term, and there is legitimate confusion as to what it means. Nuts, avocados and eggs probably belong to the right side of this division. But these decisions are not made from scratch, and it’s a bit strange to think that when you buy a packet of almonds or a dozen eggs, some of your money goes to lobbying government agencies about the exact words used in the small print on the sticker.


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