Crispy Fruit

Is a Healthy Badge Coming to Food Packages?

Why didn’t someone think of this before? FDA is working on a better guidance for healthy food. One of the ideas is simple and sweet. Just let the marketers put a “healthy” badge on food that meets the standard. What standard? FDA is working on it. But when they figure out what it takes to define a food as healthy, FDA will be ready with a badge that food companies can slap on the labels of healthy food.

Then consumers can blissfully buy and consume more. Because it’s good for you!

Five Years and Counting

Five years ago, FDA announced that it was ready to update its definition of healthy food. The definition was a couple of decades old – dating back to a time when everyone was thinking that low-fat cookies were a good idea. Of course, they didn’t do this on their own. Kind LLC smacked the agency’s guidance in a petition, saying the agency was using outdated guidance.

Since then, the process has been grinding along, with hearings and thousands of comments coming in along the way. Still no definition, but at least Kind Bars can sell themselves as a sweet form of health food.

Market Research on a Healthy Badge

While we don’t have much news on the definition of healthy food, we do have a new plan from the agency. The plan is to conduct marketing research to support development of the “healthy” badge for food packages. The agency will conduct one experiment and two surveys to see how consumers respond to potential symbols.

If you care to weigh in on this plan, the docket is here and you can comment until July 6. No doubt, the agency will collect all kinds of interesting input on this one.

For Marketing or Health?

Meanwhile we have our doubts that this will benefit public health. Marion Nestle has it about right when she says this:

“Health claims are about marketing; they are not about health. Foods are foods, not drugs. I don’t see why companies should be allowed to carry any health claims.”

If a healthy food badge helps food companies persuade us to buy and consume ever more highly processed food, better health will not be the most likely result.

Click here, here, and here for more on this project by the FDA.

Crispy Fruit, photograph © Ted Kyle / flickr

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May 21, 2021