As usual, it gets the science wrong, and we think we detect a hidden, commercial motive as well. Action Alert!
The FDA recently sent a warning letter to KIND, the company known for making several varieties of fruit-and-nut bars. The letter contends that four of KIND’s products bear the claim on their labels that they are “healthy and tasty, convenient and wholesome” without meeting the federal definition of “healthy.”
As part of this definition, a food cannot exceed one gram of saturated fat per “reference amount customarily consumed”—basically, one gram of saturated fat per serving. According to KIND’s website, the four bars mentioned by the FDA contain anywhere between one and five grams of saturated fat. Even if saturated fat were actually bad for your heart, which scientists have now refuted, this wouldn’t exactly be an artery-clogging amount.
Other absurdities abound. The FDA’s letter was also thorny about KIND’s use of the words “plus,” “antioxidant-rich,” and “good source of fiber” on their labels.
But let’s focus on saturated fat for the present. As we’ve said, the idea that we should avoid fat is just a myth with no current scientific support. There is a great deal of evidence now suggesting that saturated fat—in particular, saturated fat from the right sources—is not the main culprit in heart disease or obesity, misinformation from the American Heart Association notwithstanding! In fact, saturated fat from foods like butter from grass-fed cows, avocados, coconut oil, and eggs has numerous health benefits.
The real source of obesity and related ills such as diabetes and heart disease is sugar, and the starchy foods that break down into sugars in the body, plus of course a lack of exercise. We’ve covered the negative health effects of different types of sugar and sweeteners elsewhere. Dr. Joseph Mercola has also been a staunch critic of sweet drinks—whether sweetened by sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, or artificial sweeteners—because of the link to obesity and other diseases.
The sweetener used in KIND’s bars is usually honey. We don’t eat much of it ourselves, because it is a form of sugar, but it is at least a more natural form, assuming the honey in question is raw and organic. And, from what we can tell, most of the saturated fat in the bars comes from nuts like almonds, cashews, and peanuts. Basically, apart from the sugar content, the bars seem mostly healthy!
The main takeaway is that the FDA is using pathetically outdated science in its action against KIND and its overall determination of what is “healthy”—not unlike the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s recommendations about reducing red meat in our diet, which totally ignored the vast nutritional differences between grain-fed, hormone- and antibiotic-infused beef and grass-fed organic beef.
Unfortunately, we don’t think this is just a case of the FDA simply being woefully ignorant of the latest science. There may be another, perhaps even more insidious, game being played. If the FDA is going to start hitting companies for inappropriately claiming their products are “healthy” on the labels, this could be just the opening salvo in a renewed attack on food and supplement producers claiming any health benefits from their products, no matter how much supporting science there is.
Bear with us for a moment as we sort through some FDA law:
- At present, the law does not allow the seller of a food or supplement to say that the product will help prevent or treat a health condition or disease. Only a drug company selling an FDA-approved drug may make such a claim.
- Any violation of this rule can result in massive fines and a long jail sentence. For example, the producer of a vitamin D supplement cannot legally cite the science showing that vitamin D prevents and treats the flu. Influenza is a disease, so this is forbidden, no matter what the science says.
- The supplement producer can, however, make a legal structure/function claim—for example, by saying that vitamin D “supports immune system function.”
- Alternatively, the vitamin D producer might ask the FDA for permission to make a qualified health claim, saying that vitamin D may prevent or treat the flu (note the qualifying term “may”). But the FDA never agrees to allow this unless the agency is dragged into court at vast expense. An FDA employee once told a lawyer involved in this kind of litigation that he would have to keep suing and suing, because the agency had unlimited legal funds and he didn’t.
As we’ve seen before, this wouldn’t be the first time the FDA has tried to attack structure/function claims or qualified health claims. The agency has been trying for years to lump food, supplements, and drugs all into one category, to be subjected to the same regulations. The problem, of course, is what we call the “Catch-22” of drug economics: it costs billions of dollars to go through the FDA’s drug approval process, which is an entirely prohibitive cost to natural supplement and food companies because they cannot patent protect their products, whereas Big Pharma companies are able to patent their new-to-nature molecules—and charge exorbitant sums to consumers.
FDA success in this regard would be a great boon for the pharmaceutical industry, because competition would be eliminated. This, in turn, is good for the FDA, because Big Pharma pays the agency’s bills, in addition to offering lucrative employment for those who leave government.
For consumers who want information so they can make informed choices about food, however, it would be a devastating loss. Consumers are already willfully kept in the dark about the value of nutritional superfoods such as walnuts and cherries. If there were no structure/function claims, the supplement industry would be crippled.
Action Alert! Write to the FDA and tell them to stop censoring truthful scientific information on food labels, and especially stop the kind of censorship based on junk science. Please send your message immediately.
29 thoughts on “FDA Doubles Down on Censoring Food Labels”
stop the maddness… your data is way out dated on fats
The FDA should be split in two – separate agencies with entirely different chains of command – one to regulate drugs and the other to regulate food and supplements. This would not solve all of the problems with the FDA, but it would eliminate the conflict of interest between its regulation of drugs and its regulation of food and supplements. The new agency for the regulation of food and supplements would be a friend of healthy food, rather than its enemy.
Stop censoring truthful information! Consumers have a right to know what they are feeding their families!
FDA is a corrupt agency that rubber-stamps products for industry profits.
They have no vested interest in public safety or product safety.
This very thing is why it was insane to push for labeling when the fight should have been for banning. I won’t be part of this travesty.
BAN GMO’s. Then there is no need for labeling at all.
Everyone that worked so hard for labeling was doing “their” work for them. Aren’t you proud of yourself now? Thanks a lot! (NOT REALLY)
Government agencies only operate efficiently when informed citizens are watching. It is incumbent we use empirical study as basis for providing irrefutable evidence the FDA must consider, before establishing rules. It is our duty to country and mankind to see they do.
If were paying attention we have known for years the FDA is not on our side but they are more so in it for the benefit and protection of big Pharm and Food. Is that the “hidden, commercial motive” you speak of? To make things so much less costly for them as well as to allow their bottoms lines to flourish at our expense UN-encumbered? Where do we the people fit in ways other then to go on buying their products unknowing what we pay for, what we are really consuming?
please halt your assault on supplements!
Dear FDA, Would God that you knew your business, that is – health, enough to know that fats are critical to good health. Sugar isn’t. Corn syrup isn’t. Aspartame isn’t. GMOs aren’t. Would God that you really served the people of the United States, rather than your lobbyists.
They are so worried about any health claim but allow GMO foods to go unlabeled.
Even when the polls show people want labeling and many do not want to eat GMO foods but that does not seem to mater. Wondering what corporations are calling the shots on this???
If we could follow the money we would know.
Yall cray. Go do something worth everyone’s time.
I recommend that our letters to the FDA official be copied to our members of Congress.
Come on, FDA. Do the job you’re supposed to do; Protect the consumer. We want to know what’s in our food. We want to know that it has not been treated with antibiotics. we want to know if it has been genetically modified and for what. We want to KNOW that it is safe. This is your job and your responsibility Don’t allow us to be misinformed or lied to for corporate profits. We Dare!
Thank you for reading my note.
Santa Cruz, CA
It is about time the FDA started looking at the health products in a better light…truthful scientific labeling should be allowed…if more truth would come out with all the drugs you pass and food… stopping the ones that are the problem causing all the illnesses and side effects (too numerous to mention). Money talks.
I would suggest listening to the FDA and then do the opposite. I think I need to calm myself down with a grass fed steak slobbered with grass fed butter. I’m 67 years old and have a one year old daughter. Thus I want to be around for a few years. That’s why I love my healthy fats.
Your claim that the harmfulness of saturated fat is just a myth with no current scientific support is not true. Go to nutritionfacts.org (not .com; that’s a different site) and plug in “saturated fat” or “eggs” or “diabetes” to find several articles that address this.
I don’t know who’s right, but you can’t just sweep everything else under the rug once you’ve got an answer you like, and pretend that the discussion is over. Results can never be definitive until they’ve been well peer reviewed, and replicated by a number of independent researchers…and even then, one needs to keep an open mind about what new information may come to light.
FDA actions regarding the toxic GMO food which many are eating UNKNOWINGLY EVERY DAY by now, are very well described in a new book from Steven Druker (a lawyer who sued FDA already once):
“Altered Genes, Twisted Truth: How the Venture to Genetically Engineer Our Food Has Subverted Science, Corrupted Government, and Systematically Deceived the Public”
Paperback – March 20, 2015
It is a must read, especially for scientists, claiming GMO food is safe (??). Feeding American nation with GMO plants whose own genes are mixed up with genes from pathogenic bacteria and viruses, all that soaked with herbicides and pesticides, producing new proteins never tested for their toxicity, is the tip of irresponsibility. Steven Druker says, GMO’s are actually ILLEGAL, and should be banned… I completely agree, with one small addition, A.S.A.P.
Please do the job you are supposed to do and stop trying to play nice to corporate corruption.
I have been trying to educate the public about the ambiguity with FDA’s protocols, especially not providing any data of long-term outcomes from drugs, devices and certain foods. FDA only approves short term clinical trial drugs to get them on the market. Also their laws are unchanged overtime. People need to demand transparency. You’d be surprised how most are uneducated because of corporation’s tricky wording in advertising. Thank you for publishing the truths.
The hypocrisy. They nit pick about small healthy brands, while allowing the cereal makers to place a big HEART “HEALTHY” logo on their boxes, when cereals are actually heart UNhealthy.
Don’t cave to Nabisco, Nestle and the rest. We want to know what’s in our food
The FDA no longer can be trusted and has lost ALL credibility. It is 100% money motivated and will do just about anything, say just about anything, for the almighty dollar. No concern for what’s best for humankind. Concern only for what goes in their pockets. Sick, sick, sick…….
The FDA should only be involved with food on a safety basis
Oh, and I love fruit-and-nut bars…
The only way I can see to break the industry stranglehold on the FDA (and other government agencies) is to persuade Congress to fund them some other way than with industry money. And to legislate against the revolving door between industry and government (maybe enact a mandatory waiting period?).
Since this is so lucrative for them, a solid source of personal revenue both while in office and afterward, I think it would really take an act of Congress (bitter laughter) to change this entrenched system. But I don’t think things will improve, they’ll only get worse until and unless this incestuous relationship ends. Are there ANY existing laws that could be leveraged to make this happen? EarthJustice, we need a good lawyer!
Stop protecting industry and consider your mission statement…to protect the citizens of these United States!!! We have a right to choose what we put in our bodies…weather you consider it “good” or NOT!!!
I’m wondering why my comment was not published. I would be a stretch to say it didn’t meet the guidelines above.
Anyone who wishes to maintain minimum standards of personal health MUST be able to depend on an accurate readout of ingredients of store products.