FDA Looks to Redefine the Term ‘Healthy’ on Food Labels

March 8th, 2017

The FDA has been doing some soul searching of late over key marketing terms popular in food advertising. Last fall it reached out to consumers to ask whether the agency should define “natural.” Now it’s looking at another term prominent on many food labels that seeks to attract nutrition-conscious consumers: “healthy.” The agency is holding a public meeting Thursday to discuss this very issue.

Under the current FDA definition, a food must be very low in fat to be marketed as healthy. But there are good fats – like those contained in nuts, avocados and salmon— as the KIND snack company argued after the agency ordered it to stop using the term because some of its bars exceeded the saturated fat limit. And what about foods high in sugar? Why are they allowed to be labeled healthy, KIND questioned the agency.

The FDA, noting that dietary recommendations have evolved, relented, saying KIND could continue to label the bars “healthy” and signaled it will not enforce the current requirements if certain nutritional criteria are met. Meanwhile, companies can, at least for now, still use the term healthy on foods that meet the FDA’s current definition.

Here are a few whose “healthy” claims should be taken with, ahem, a grain of salt.


Consumers can weigh in on how they think the FDA should define “healthy” by submitting electronic comments here.

Find more of our coverage on food labeling terminology here.

This article was originally published 10/3/16.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply

Back to Top ↑