On May 10, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a statement in which it officially allowed KIND, LLC to use the term “healthy,” within the phrase “healthy and tasty” on its labels following the company’s cooperation with FDA after a March 2015 warning letter to the firm. In thewarning letter, FDA cited KIND’s use of the term “healthy” as an implied nutrient content claim alongside such claims as “low saturated fat” or “good source of fiber.” According to FDA, KIND did not meet the nutrient requirements to use such claims and was therefore misbranded and in violation of section 403 of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

FDA issued a close-out letter on April 20, 2016, concluding that KIND satisfactorily addressed the violations. After receiving the close-out letter, KIND requested confirmation from FDA whether they could use phrase "healthy and tasty" as text presenting its corporate philosophy, which the agency allowed. Because KIND remedied the aforementioned nutrient content claims, FDA’s current position is not exactly a reversal, but more of a revision, given the specific context of “healthy.” The phrase is only authorized to appear “in text clearly presented as its corporate philosophy, where it isn’t represented as a nutrient content claim, and does not appear on the same display panel as nutrient content claims or nutrition information.”

KIND maintains that “healthy” was never meant as a nutrient content claim, but rather a core concept the company’s philosophy. “At KIND, healthy has always been more than just a word on a label, so when we were asked to remove the term from our wrappers, it cut to the core of who we are,” said Daniel Lubetzky, Founder & CEO of KIND in press release. “While we're pleased the FDA affirmed that KIND can put healthy back on our wrappers, just as we had it before, it doesn't change what always has been and will remain our focus – to create delicious snacks made with wholesome ingredients.”

David L. Katz, MD, MPH, FACPM, FACP, Director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, who has served as a nutrition adviser to KIND believes that the requirements under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act are outdated and require revision. “The current regulatory definition of healthy is inconsistent with federal guidelines and scientific research, as today we know it’s advisable to prioritize eating whole foods, including nuts, plants, whole grains and seafood,” said Katz in a press release.

This will remain a partial victory until the regulatory standards for the term “healthy” are updated to reflect our current understanding of nutrition.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine online 5/13/2016

UPDATED 5/13/2016 3:35 pm: A previous version of this article said FDA issued their statement March 10. This was corrected to May 10. Additional details were also added for the purpose of clarification.