FDA Smacks Snacks On Health Claims

If you’re deciding between a candy bar and a fruit-and-nut bar, and health is top of mind, the best choice seems obvious.

But when it comes to companies actually labeling their products “healthy,” the Food and Drug Administration is showing it won’t pull any punches. In a letter dated March 17 that was released this week, the agency called out the snack food company Kind for violating labeling rules by putting the word “healthy” on the packaging for some of its bars.

It turns out the FDA has a very specific definition of “healthy” food and a list of requirements that products must meet to earn the right to put that loaded word on the label. For one, the product has to contain 1 gram or less of saturated fat.

According to the letter, there were four flavors of Kind bar that were not up to snuff when the agency reviewed them in August 2014. For example, the Kind Fruit & Nut Almond & Coconut product contained 5 grams of saturated fat per 40 grams of the food.

As William Correll, the director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and author of the letter, writes, “None of your products listed above meet the requirements for use of the nutrient content claim ‘healthy,’ even though the Kind label reads ‘Healthy and tasty, convenient and wholesome.’ ”

The FDA takes issue with many other aspects of the labels, including Kind’s use of the plus sign on some of its products, which it uses to designate bars with extra antioxidants, fiber or protein.

Technically, to bear the symbol or word “plus,” the bar has to contain 10 percent more of the nutrients than a bar the FDA has deemed representative of the snack bar category.

So is Kind actually misleading consumers about the healthfulness of its products?

As The Salt has reported, the latest research suggests saturated fat may not be the nutritional villain it has been made out to be. High-fat nuts, in particular, may help control our appetites, to keep weight down.

Walter Willett, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard University, says it’s not as though Kind’s mislabeling is egregious. “You wouldn’t want a product that’s loaded with mostly palm oil and other sources of saturated fat [to be labeled healthy],” he says.

Willett has researched how nuts contribute to human health, and he tells The Salt that they reduce LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and lower rates of heart disease and mortality. “They’re probably one of the healthiest choices you can make in a diet,” he says.

Willett says that the FDA’s letter to Kind is based on outdated guidelines, at least when it comes to nuts. The government updates its Dietary Guidelines for Americans every five years, and the latest report from the advisory committee for those guidelines does indeed point to research supporting the inclusion of nuts in a healthful diet.

But the FDA seems to be lagging, in part because the agency doesn’t revise its guidelines as frequently. “I think there’s wide consensus that nuts are a healthy food,” Willett says.

The warning letter comes during a growth spurt for Kind, which has tripled its sales over the past two years. According to Joe Cohen, senior vice president of communications, the company didn’t know that the word “healthy” came with a specific set of rules and guidelines. The word went on the packaging in 2004 and it’s been there ever since.

The company responded to the FDA’s letter on its website, saying that it will be changing the labels on the four flavors that Correll disputed. It says it is also reviewing its entire line to make sure labels on other products comply with FDA rules.

“Nuts, key ingredients in many of our snacks and one of the things that make fans love our bars, contain nutritious fats that exceed the amount allowed under the FDA’s standard,” Cohen writes in an email to NPR.

He didn’t address the plus sign directly, except to say that the company is “fully committed to working alongside the FDA, and we’re moving quickly to comply with its request.”

Source: npr

Chinese-style Stir-fried Spaghetti with Beef


100 g beef sirloin, cut into thin strips across the grains
1/2 onion, shredded
1/2 green bell pepper, cut into strips
1 red chili, cut into slices
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, minced
100 g spaghetti


1½ tsp light soy sauce
1/4 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp sesame oil
dash ground white pepper
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp oil
1/8 tsp baking soda (optional)


1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1½ tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil


1 tsp sugar
1 tsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp water


  1. Mix marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Add to beef and mix well. Set aside for 30 minutes.
  2. Cook spaghetti in a large pot of slated water until al dente. Remove and drain. Mix with seasoning ingredients.
  3. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a wok, saute garlic and shallot until fragrant. Add beef and stir-fry until almost cooked. Add onion, bell pepper and chili. Stir-fry briefly.
  4. Add spaghetti and sauce ingredients. Toss to combine with other ingredients in the wok, until the sauce is well absorbed. Remove and serve hot.

Source: Rice and Noodles – Delicious Recipes

In Pictures: Character Bento


Eating Out = High Blood Pressure?

A recent study on university-going young adults, by researchers from the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore (Duke-NUS), is the first ever to show an association between meals eaten away from home and high blood pressure. These findings highlight lifestyle factors that can affect hypertension and emphasise the importance of being aware of the salt and calorie content in food, to facilitate better meal choices when eating out.

Globally, high blood pressure, or hypertension, is the leading risk factor for death associated with cardiovascular disease. Studies have shown that young adults with pre-hypertension, or slightly elevated blood pressure, are at very high risk of hypertension. Eating meals away from home have been shown to be associated with higher caloric intake, higher saturated fat intake and higher salt intake. These eating patterns are thought to cause high blood pressure.

Duke-NUS Professor Tazeen Jafar designed and supervised a study to find behaviours associated with hypertension in a young adult population in Southeast Asia. Her team, including Duke-NUS medical student Dominique Seow, surveyed 501 university-going young adults aged 18 to 40 years in Singapore. Data on blood pressure, body mass index and lifestyle, including meals eaten away from home and physical activity levels, were collected. Their association with hypertension was then determined.

Using statistical analysis, the team found that pre-hypertension was found in 27.4% of the total population, and 38% ate more than 12 meals away from home per week; while the gender breakdown showed that pre-hypertension was more prevalent in men (49%) than in women (9%). Those who had pre-hypertension or hypertension were more likely to eat more meals away from home per week, have a higher mean body mass index, have lower mean physical activity levels, and be current smokers.

The novel finding in this study is the link that Dr. Jafar’s team was able to show between pre-hypertension and hypertension with meals eaten away from home. What is also significant is that even eating one extra meal out, raised the odds of prehypertension by 6%.

“While there have been studies conducted in the United States and Japan to find behaviours associated with hypertension, very few have surveyed a Southeast Asian population,” said Dr. Jafar, who is from the Health Services and Systems Programme at Duke-NUS. “Our research plugs that gap and highlights lifestyle factors associated with pre-hypertension and hypertension that are potentially modifiable, and would be applicable to young adults globally, especially those of Asian descent.”

The findings in this study can be used to modify behaviour through changes in clinical and policy recommendations. Clinicians can intervene to advise young adults to modify their lifestyle behaviours while food policy changes can be made to regulate salt and fat in eateries. Clinicians can also advise younger male patients that they are at higher risk for pre-hypertension in order to make them more aware of their predisposition to the condition.

Future studies should examine the effect of lifestyle modification programmes on blood pressure levels on the at-risk population found in this study. Dr. Jafar’s team plans to lead a related intervention study on prevention of hypertension among young adults in Singapore.

This study was published online in the American Journal of Hypertension and was supported by the Duke-NUS Signature Research Programme, with funding from the Singapore Ministry of Health.

Source: EurekAlert!

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