Are We Any Closer to Defining What “Healthy” Means?

The Lempert Report
December 16, 2016

It all seemed to start with the FDA and Kind bars trying to define what the brand could and could not say on its label and in advertising.

It has evolved, hopefully for the better, in the FDA inviting public comments in order to re-evaluate how a brand can use the word “healthy.” The FDA is asking for insight on:

  • What types of food, if any, should be allowed to bear the term ‘healthy?’
  • Should all food categories be subject to the same criteria?  
  • Is ‘healthy’ the best term to characterize foods that should be encouraged to build good dietary practices or patterns? What other words or terms might be more appropriate (eg. ‘nutritious’)?  
  • What nutrient criteria should be considered for the definition of the term ‘healthy?’
  • What do consumers understand as ‘healthy’ in relation to food?

We took a look at some of the comments posted, and the topline is that some  argue that brands should not be allowed to use the term ‘healthy’ on food labels at all. 

Here are some other edited for space, not content, opinions. If you want to add your comments you have until the deadline on Jan 26, 2017 and just go to:

You're polling food companies and the public to determine what's healthy? Are you kidding me? For once take politics out of it and follow good science. You need input from the biochemists, from the nutrition researchers and get the food manufacturers out of your pockets. The general public doesn't even know how to read a food label and you want them to decide what's good for us? Unbelievable. 

The average person does not know how to or does not choose to read labels so, let's stop pretending they do. If the packaging is flashy and has a pretty picture, or says "New", that is what entices people to purchase a product.   

I am mortified by the typical American diet. I was forced to changed my ways due to genetics of high cholesterol and Diabetes. I am size 6 so it is not a weight issue. If the govt would spend more on ads that teach people how to eat healthier than on bad food ads and pharmaceutical companies playing on people with Diabetes this country has a better chance of getting a handle on this rampant disease.   

The term "healthy" can be extremely controversial. Just recently I was walking down an aisle and I saw a box of fruit snacks saying they have "natural preservatives" and are made out of "real juice," which is extremely misleading and erroneous. Although the company may have found a loophole to state this absurd claim, the product is seen by consumers as healthier for you and males it easier for consumers to rationalize why they should consumer the product. The point of this example is to highlight the flaw in the food industry. With all the major health concerns that we face today, it is imperative that companies should not be able to label their products as "healthy," unless they meet strict requirements that are proven to actually have significant health benefits.   

Food labeling regulations currently mandate that the term ‘healthy’ can only be used as a nutrient content claim to describe foods that (among other things) contain 3g or less total fat and 1g or less of saturated fat per serving, with the exception of fish and meat.