Last week, a threatening letter on its website addressed to , the fruit and nut snack bar company that produces KIND bars, which according to the FDA, violated the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, as well as Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). The violation? The KIND bars, which contain only fruit, nuts, coconut, and other natural ingredients, contain the word “healthy.”
How can they be “healthy” when, in fact, they contain more than 1 gram of per serving? Yes, according to the CFR, a product cannot be labeled as “healthy” unless it contains less than 1 gram of saturated fat per serving and no more the 15% of total calories from saturated fat.
By this definition, raw, unprocessed almonds, cashews, and macadamia nuts are not “healthy,” and of course, neither is coconut. Never mind science. Forget about tradition. The federal government defines what is and isn’t healthy.
Adding insult to injury, the FDA also asserted in its letter, “Scientific evidence suggests that trans-fat acts in a similar manner to saturated fat with respect to raising LDL cholesterol. Higher total and LDL cholesterol levels are associated with increased risk of developing coronary heart disease.”
The evidence against trans fat is overwhelming, unambiguous, and no longer even debated. A 2006 study published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine observed, “On a per-calorie basis, trans fats appear to increase the risk of CHD [coronary heart disease] more than any other macronutrient, conferring a substantially increased risk at low levels of consumption (1 to 3% of total energy intake).”1
Is saturated fat deserving of such a comparison? The current scientific literature, of course, paints a much different picture.
Saturated fat supports health and only increases the benign, large-particle variety of LDL.2 There are two types of LDL, small-particle and large-particle. Small-particle is dense and tends to accumulate along the arterial walls, contributing to aortic plaque and, eventually, cardiovascular disease.3
Sugar and omega-6-rich industrial seed oils (soybean, corn, canola, etc.) are the primary drivers of small-particle LDL.4 The FDA doesn’t agree, however. Most health-related governmental institutions encourage the consumption of omega-6 seed oils.
Kind has agreed to change the labels on their KIND bars, removing the word “healthy.” And who can blame them? When you’re running a company, the last thing you want to do is battle the FDA. But what a sad state of affair in the world of nutrition: healthy foods cannot be labeled as such, while unhealthy foods get the green light.
So, if your Paleo-fueled health improvements inspire you to develop a new product line, which could help others, we encourage you to carefully study the federal regulations regarding health claims used on product labels. The value of the stacks of published, peer-reviewed studies supporting your claims are unparalleled, but until the FDA reforms their own guidelines, focus upon formulating the best product, educate consumers of their benefits, and be sure your packaging conveys the claims both truthfully and lawfully.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect product endorsement by The Paleo Diet, LLC and Dr. Loren Cordain.
Christopher James Clark, B.B.A.
Christopher James Clark, B.B.A. is an award-winning writer, consultant, and chef with specialized knowledge in nutritional science and healing cuisine. He has a Business Administration degree from the University of Michigan and formerly worked as a revenue management analyst for a Fortune 100 company. For the past decade-plus, he has been designing menus, recipes, and food concepts for restaurants and spas, coaching private clients, teaching cooking workshops worldwide, and managing the kitchen for a renowned Greek yoga resort. Clark is the author of the critically acclaimed, award-winning book, .