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The Meaninglessness of 'Healthy' Food: Six Ways Labels Need to Change

Many of the claims made on supermarket labels are under heightened scrutiny.
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Source: Kind LLC

It wasn't easy for KIND bars to become officially "healthy." The term falls within the patchwork of sometimes outdated or incomplete labeling regulations administered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which had told Kind LLC that its bars didn't meet the required nutrient specifications. Kind pushed back by challenging the FDA's definition of "healthy" and arguing that good-for-you staples such as salmon and avocados also fail to meet the standard. And it worked: In an e-mail sent to the company last month from FDA, and reviewed by Bloomberg, Kind received clearance to keep the healthy label while regulators worked on redefining the term.

Many of the claims made on supermarket labels are under heightened scrutiny. Some are governed by decades-old policy, and others aren't guided by any rules. Susan T. Mayne, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, signaled an openness to reevaluating labeling lingo last month. “We are certainly aware of consumer interest in both of these terms, ‘natural’ and ‘healthy,’” she said in a speech at the Grocery Manufacturers Association Science Forum.