NEW YORK, March 13, 2019 (PRNewswire) — KIND Healthy Snacks, with support from foremost health and nutrition experts, last week filed a Citizen Petition urging the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to update the nutrient content claim regulation. The current regulation looks at the quantity of a nutrient instead of the quality of the overall food, which enables food marketers to put these claims on unhealthy products. As a result, consumers are led to believe these items are part of a healthy diet and misled into purchasing them.
Nutrient content claims are misused on a variety of products, including sugary cereals and snacks and sodium-packed frozen dishes, which highlight beneficial nutrients but avoid calling out other less appealing aspects of the food.
"Dressing up empty calorie products by emphasizing a singular nutrient, like protein or fiber, versus the overall quality of the food is unfair to consumers," says KIND Founder & CEO Daniel Lubetzky. "By bringing greater rigor to the use of nutrient claims, FDA can increase label transparency and help people better identify foods that contribute to a healthy diet, which KIND has long advocated for."
Registered Dietitians (RDs), who see firsthand the negative impact these claims can have on people, agree it is time to dust off a regulation that was implemented in the 1990s. According to a new survey1:
- 75% of RDs say that the top reason nutrient content claims impact purchases is because their clients/patients believe the food bearing the claim is a healthy item;
- 85% of RDs say that they often come across products with nutrient content claims that they would not recommend as part of a healthy diet.
A survey2 fielded by Washington DC-based Morning Consult reinforces the role these claims play in consumers' lives. Specifically, more than 2/3 (68%) of consumers say that nutrient content claims are important when deciding which products to purchase. While the claims are influential, consumers agree they are not as clear as they could be, with a majority (56%) saying FDA should update its regulation to make nutrient content claims less misleading.
This issue has been recognized by leading public health experts, including the following individuals who have co-signed the petition:
- David L. Katz: MD, MPH, Founding Director, Yale University Prevention Research Center, Griffin Hospital Founder and President, True Health Initiative
- David JA Jenkins: MD, D.Sc, Ph.D University Professor, Canada Research Chair in Nutrition and Metabolism, Departments of Nutritional Sciences and Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Director, Risk Factor Modification Centre, St. Michael's Hospital
- Meir Stampfer: MD, Professor, Epidemiology and Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard University
- Cheryl A M Anderson: Professor, Department of Family and Public Health, UC San Diego School of Medicine
- Connie Diekman: M.Ed., RD, CSSD, FADA, Registered Dietitian, former President, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
- Sara Baer-Sinnott: President, Oldways
- Kelly Toups: MLA, RD, LDN: Director of Nutrition, Oldways
- Caroline Sluyter: Program Director, Oldways Whole Grains Council
- Wahida Karmally: DrPH, RD, CDE, CLS, FNLA, Special Research Scientist, Columbia University
- Kathleen Zelman: MPH, RD, Nutrition Specialist
The petition is in line with FDA's 2018 Strategic Policy Roadmap,3 in which the agency emphasizes its goal to create "better ways of communicating nutrition information to consumers so they can be empowered to make good choices." It also supports FDA's ongoing effort to update the definition of 'healthy.' Stephanie Csaszar, a Registered Dietitian and Health & Wellness Expert at KIND, explains. "FDA has already taken strides to evolve how 'healthy' can be used on food labels. We applaud their work and hope that – by encouraging a holistic view of nutrient content claims – our petition furthers that thinking in a way that is productive and benefits public health."
In the petition, KIND asks FDA to only allow nutrient content claims on items that contain a meaningful amount of a health-promoting food (such as vegetables, whole fruits, whole grains, legumes and nuts). Nearly half (45%) of RDs surveyed agree with this request, saying that to make a nutrient content claim a food should contain a significant quantity of foods recommended for healthy eating. The petition also requests adjustments to current disclosures as well as the addition of a disqualification threshold that would ban unhealthful products from making such claims.
Dr. Katz, a co-signatory, says, "I'm pleased to support the petition. Amending the nutrient content claim regulation to ensure that the majority of a product is made from a genuinely nutritious food source will have a lasting impact on public health."
Sara Baer-Sinnott, the President of Oldways and another co-signatory, adds, "Oldways is pleased to join as a signatory on the petition. By highlighting wholesome plant foods, this petition provides a sensible path to advance public health by empowering consumers with clear nutrition information."
1 This poll was conducted from February 18-March 4 among a national sample of 595 Registered Dietitians. All respondents are part of KIND's Nutrition Collective; however, none are employed by KIND and the views expressed are their own.
2 This poll was funded by KIND and conducted from February 19-21, 2019, among a national sample of 2202 adults.