The Strategist

FDA's rules claim apple pies are healthier than avocados

05/13/2016 - 16:48

Office of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants to give a new definition of healthy eating, taking into account the changed approach to health and diet.

Steven Depolo via flickr
Steven Depolo via flickr
According to current rules, almonds are considered less healthy than, for example, an apple pie. Yet, this view may change in the future. At the request of food manufacturers and congressmen, FDA is revising criteria of "healthy". This term applied to food has been fixed in the US law back in 1994. The regulator plans to interview people and experts what may be included in the concept of healthy food. Such an extensive investigation may take several years. 

In the light of new research and adjustment of food labeling rules, it is just the right time to reconsider rules on nutrient content, including the term "healthy", stated the FDA in response to The Wall Street Journal’s request.

The FDA also mentioned a request of the manufacturer of fruit and nut bars Kind. The latter launched an active campaign for the definition’s change. Last year, the regulator warned the company of use of the word "healthy" on the bars’ packages. FDA has required Kind to remove the word.

"We very much hope that adjustment of "healthy" term will help avoid the embarrassing situation where sugary cookies and dry cereal are healthy product category, and a piece of salmon or a handful of almonds are not" - said Kind’s CEO Daniel Lubetzky. 

Now, the definition "healthy" is relevant foods that meet five parameters: fat, saturated fat, salt, cholesterol, micronutrients. Different products should comply with different possible parameters. For example, fat content should not be higher than 3g for snacks. 

Kellogg Company does not label flakes or cakes with low fat content as a healthy food. However, according to current regulations, the company may well do it. Foods high in sugar, such as low-fat puddings, meet all the criteria of the health food concept. Avocado, on the contrary, does not fit the norm due to the high fat content. Kellogg declined to comment.

In 1994, when the "healthy food" determination had only been drawn up, regulators were focused on the low fat content, not sugar.

In recent years, the concept of healthy eating and the attitude to fat in food have changed. Sales of products that are low in fat fell as buyers are now looking for gluten-free and organic ingredients. New recommendations of nutritionists suggest eating more salmon and nuts, although these products do not fit the existing criteria of healthy food by FDA standards.