Nuts are rocketing to the forefront of the healthy foods discussion in America, as government agencies take a second look at how nuts (once villainized for their fat content) fit into the “healthy” labeling debate.
First, on the heels of the gluten-free phenomenon comes a wave of new grain-free snack and breakfast options. SPINS tracked 124% dollar growth of grain-free products last year, noting more than 200 brands are labeling products as grain-free, grain-less or no grains.
According to Food Business News, examples on display at the 2016 Expo East included Krave the Krunch grainless granola from Paleo Passion Foods in Greenwich, Connecticut. The product is made with nuts, seeds, coconut and honey or maple syrup, flavors include Caribbean coconut, chocolate nut, and maple cinnamon. Pamela’s Products, Ukiah, California, is introducing Pamela’s Nut Flour Blend, which contains almond flour, organic coconut flour, pecan flour and walnut flour.
It’s important to note that millennials’ top choice when it comes to snacking is salty snacks, according to “How America’s Eating Habits Are Changing,” a new report from the Private Label Manufacturers Association. The online survey of 1,839 shoppers between the ages of 20 and 29 found 58% prefer snacking on salty snacks like nuts, while 42% said they prefer sweet snacks like cookies, candy and donuts.
On the regulatory front, FDA is now considering a wholesale “refresh” of its regulations concerning labeling food products as “healthy.” At the same time, FDA is considering whether and how to regulate use of the term “natural,” which many consumers equate with healthy.
Creighton R. Magid, a partner at the international law firm Dorsey & Whitney and head of its Washington DC office, works with clients to reduce their liability risks and to help them navigate the federal regulatory system, particularly in connection with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
"The bigger picture is that several trends are coming into play right now,” Magird says. “Nutrition science is evolving, with an emphasis on looking at the pluses and minuses of various foods, rather than categories (such as “fat”). Evidence is emerging that the past emphasis on fat as a villain was driven in large measure by lobbying rather than by science. KIND forced the FDA to back down when it fought back against FDA’s Warning Letter saying that KIND’s use of nuts in its snack bars caused the bars to have too much fat to be “healthy.” KIND pointed out that the same would be true of salmon and avocados.”
The Food and Drug Administration has issued a guidance document that updates how the agency defines the nutrient content claim “healthy.” The guidance was issued in response to the agency’s effort to make it consistent with the FDA Nutrition Facts Panel final rule that was finalized this past May.
“In particular, we intend to exercise enforcement discretion with respect to the current requirement that any food bearing the nutrient content claim ‘healthy’ meet the low fat requirement provided that … the amounts of mono- and polyunsaturated fats are declared on the label and … the amounts declared constitute the majority of the fat content,” the FDA reports.
The FDA added that the guidance is a temporary enforcement policy while the agency updates its regulations to make it consistent with the Nutrition Facts Panel final rule.