You Probably Shouldn't Go Nuts About the FDA's Kind Bar Crackdown
Last night during an especially awful commute home through Los Angeles traffic (we’re talking an hour and a half in the car), I dug into the side pocket of my bag for a Kind bar. I’d thrown one of the brand’s Almond & Coconut bars into it because I knew that the nearly 25-mile slog from Santa Monica to Silver Lake, the neighborhood where I live, would get me home well past dinnertime. So imagine my horror when I woke up this morning to headlines proclaiming that Kind bars are no longer allowed to use the word “healthy” in them—and that I might as well have eaten a candy bar for my snack.
On Tuesday, regulators from the Food and Drug Administration sent a strongly worded warning letter to Kind Snacks, the creators of the brand, saying that the company must remove the word "healthy" from the bar’s plastic wrappers, its website, and all advertising for four of its bars.
According to the FDA's letter, the Almond & Apricot, Almond & Coconut, Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate + Protein, and Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew + Antioxidants bars don’t “meet the requirements for use of the nutrient content claim “healthy."
At issue is the amount of fat in the bars, as well as the kind of fat—saturated versus unsaturated—it is. To be labeled “healthy,” a food must not have more than one gram of saturated fat, and a maximum of 15 percent of its calories can come from saturated fat. The offending Kind bars exceed that amount.
According to the FDA, the Almond & Apricot and the Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate + Protein bar have 3.5 grams of saturated fat per 40 grams of the food. The Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew + Antioxidants clocks in at 2.5 grams of saturated fat per 40 grams of the food.
As for the bar I was eating, the Almond & Coconut product contains 5 grams of saturated fat per 40 grams of the food. Ouch.
Kind responded Tuesday on its blog, defending the products. “Nuts, key ingredients in many of our snacks and one of the things that make fans love our bars, contain nutritious fats that exceed the amount allowed under the FDA’s standard,” wrote the company. “This is similar to other foods that do not meet the standard for use of the term healthy, but are generally considered to be good for you like avocados, salmon and eggs.”
Indeed, one cup of sliced avocado has about 21 grams of fat—3.1 grams of which are saturated. But we’d be hard-pressed to classify a potassium– and vitamin E–rich avocado as an unhealthy junk food. And fats from nuts are one of the things that most nutritionists agree aren’t a bad thing to consume on a daily basis.
So are the snacks as nutritionally sound as a slice of fruit or a serving of vegetables? Probably not. Some of the FDA’s other concerns—namely, that the bars don't have enough fiber or antioxidants to be labeled as high fiber or antioxidant rich—seem legit. However, a Kind bar every now and then probably isn’t going to do too much damage to someone who eats a healthy, balanced diet. As with everything, moderation is the key.