So, the FDA recently sent a Warning letter to a snack company. What’s the latest threat they are protecting us from? It’s not Hostess Ho-Hos, Little Debbie, or Twinkies. The FDA is apparently concerned with companies claiming that raw nuts are healthy. Their target? KIND bars.
As you’ll no doubt agree, the lengthy and overly nit-picky FDA Warning is a bit too bazaar to believe, so we dug a little deeper to try and connect the dots.
This excerpt from a Huffington Post article sheds some light on the absurdity of the FDA warning:
“The FDA’s crackdown on KIND Bars for saturated fat is ‘well-intentioned but absurd,’ according to Dr. Walter Willett, Chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. ‘It’s a bit ridiculous that saturated fat from nuts should be counted against a product, because nuts are about one of the healthiest choices you could possibly make… This is an example of something with good intentions based on concepts that are hugely obsolete.'” Huffington Post, 14 April 2015 (source)
Here’s what we know… In February 2015, an article on RedState.com presented an appeal asking readers to stop supporting KIND Snack company because the CEO, Daniel Lubetzky, founded an organization called OneVoice which has partnered with an Isralie group called V15, that opposes Benjamin Netanyahu. There’s nothing illegal about supporting or opposing political candidates, but conservatives apparently took issue with Lubetzky not being a Netanyahu supporter.
By mid-March 2015, the anti-KIND campaign seemed to have morphed into a dubious FDA Warning sent to Daniel Lubetsky citing numerous petty violations about the product labeling, and taking issue with the naturally occurring fat content (from nuts).
This kind of harassment seems similar to the IRS audits of conservatives. There’s nothing wrong with consumers making shopping decisions consistent with their politics. However, when government agencies are used to selectively target liberals, conservatives, or any other group, it’s wrong.
Three things are unusual about the FDA Warning:
- Concern About Nuts. The KIND products are almost exclusively raw foods with little or no processing or additives. They are primarily comprised of nuts. The FDA concerns about the KIND products could be equally leveled against any products containing nuts and indeed any vendor of raw nuts. The FDA Warning Letter asserts that nuts aren’t healthy. The KIND product formula has remained consistent over the years. Why is the FDA suddenly now concerned about the product line? If nuts represent a serious health risk to consumers, shouldn’t a health advisory be issued?
- Concern About Labeling. The primary focus of the FDA Warning seemed to be about the product labeling. While there are many products on the market that contain misleading package images, the KIND products have mostly clear wrappers, through which the consumer sees the unprocessed raw ingredients. Imagine someone selling a clear plastic bag of walnuts and being told their product packaging is misleading.
- Media Leak. The story was leaked to the media on April 14 with most media outlets getting the story wrong — stating that “KIND Bars are unhealthy.” This incorrect reporting, across multiple news sources, suggests that incorrect information was fed to journalists. The FDA Warning was directed primarily toward the product labeling and not the product content. No change to the product content has been requested, and no warning on the label has been requested.
Another point raised in the FDA letter was with regard to the address printed on the food labels. Many companies use a Post Office box as their primary mailing address used for business and legal purposes. Indeed, the FDA no doubt used the KIND PO Box to reach them by mail. Essentially, the FDA says in their letter mailed to KIND, that KIND isn’t reachable by mail.
“Specifically, the statement ‘Kind, LLC, P.O. Box 705 Midtown Station, NY, NY 10018’ which is provided on the label does not include the street address and the street address of your business does not appear in a current city or telephone directory. FDA is unable to determine the physical location of your firm using a city or telephone directory and the address listed on the label.”
Apparently the FDA has never heard of Googling a company. They are still using phone books.
Midway through the threatening letter from the FDA is this statement:
“The above violations are not meant to be an all-inclusive list of violations that may exist in connection with your products or their labeling. It is your responsibility to ensure that your products comply with the Act and its implementing regulations. You should take prompt action to correct the violations. Failure to promptly correct the violations may result in regulatory action without further notice, including seizure and/or injunction.”
So, Daniel Lubetsky has been given 15 days to comply before the FDA might seize the company property and bank accounts without further notice:
“Please respond to this letter within 15 working days from receipt with the actions you plan to take in response to this letter, including an explanation of each step being taken to correct the current violations and prevent similar violations. Include any documentation necessary to show that correction has been achieved. If you cannot complete corrective action within 15 working days, state the reason for the delay and the time within which you will complete the corrections.”
That means KIND would have two weeks to redesign packaging for their entire product line. That’s a huge undertaking. Undoubtedly, nutritionists and a legal team will need to help in the response to the FDA surprise attack. That will take time and cost a lot of money.
By wasting time and money on harassing KIND, the FDA is neglecting to go after real misleading packaging like that found on Good Natured Baked Vegetable Crisps. These chips show colorful carrots, spinach, and red pepper on the bag, yet in fact contain more sugar than any of those vegetable ingredients. It’s the blatantly misleading product packaging that the FDA needs to be doing something about — and not hassling the companies that are wrapping raw nuts in clear packaging.
Below is the ResourcesForLife.com response to the FDA Warning Letter to KIND. ResourcesForLife.com awarded Kind Bars the Most Healthy Nutritious Snack Bar Award for 2015.
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Regarding the FDA KIND Bar Warning
Today an FDA advisory regarding KIND Bars was in the headlines. We believe the FDA warning is misguided and a waste of taxpayer money. It maligns an exceptional brand.
It’s not surprising that the FDA announcement was miscommunicated by the major media with story headlines such as CNBC reporting: “Kind Bars are not ‘healthy’ says the FDA.”
That’s what most people will conclude when hearing about the FDA warning. In a world where consumers don’t read much further beyond the Twitter limit of 140 characters, an FDA Warning and statements about a product not being healthy can take many months and millions of dollars to recover from.
The FDA warning was not about KIND products, but instead about labeling and product claims. It’s not that KIND Bars are not ‘healthy’ but instead the point in question is about the product labeling.
As a result of this confusion, KIND has issued a public statement about the FDA warning.
On the KIND Bar packaging, some relatively obvious common sense statements appear such as “Healthy and tasty, convenient and wholesome.” Our own research concluded that the products are healthy, tasty, convenient, and wholesome, but you can eat a bar and draw your own conclusions. Statements like “good source of fiber,” were also criticized by the FDA, even though the bar we evaluated has 7 grams of fiber, making it what we believe to be a good source of fiber.
The real story here is how uninformed the FDA is with regard to the current nutritional findings that most healthcare practitioners would agree is common knowledge today.
Meanwhile, products that are truly misleading and deserving of an FDA warning letter go unfettered, such as Good Natured Baked Vegetable Crisps that depict vegetables on their packaging, yet have more sugar than any of the vegetables shown on the package.
Please do what you can to help support KIND through this unkind treatment by the FDA.
“Because consumers have so few good choices when it comes to quality food products, it’s essential that consumers know what those choices are. KIND Bars are an excellent nutritious alternative to other less nutritious foods available. It’s important that consumers not be dissuaded from purchasing these products.” ~ Greg Johnson, Director of the Consumer Defense Resource Group
The media coverage below shows how an FDA warning about product labeling was misconstrued as a product warning. Surprisingly, most of these media outlets got the story wrong by implying that KIND bars are unhealthy.
- Bloomberg: “Kind Bars Aren’t Healthy Enough for ‘Healthy’ Tag, FDA Says” (14 April 2015)
- BuzzFeed: “The FDA Says Kind Bars Aren’t Healthy Enough To Be Labeled ‘Healthy’” (14 April 2015)
- CBS: “Kind Bars Aren’t so Kind to Your Health, FDA Finds” (14 April 2015)
- CNBC: “Kind Bars are not ‘healthy’ says the FDA” (14 April 2015)
- Daily News: “Kind bars get slapped with warning from Food and Drug Administration” (14 April 2015)
- Fortune: “Kind Bars don’t deserve a ‘healthy’ label, FDA says” (14 April 2015)
- Mother Jones: “The FDA Has Some Bad News About Your Kind Bars” (14 April 2015)
- SALON: “FDA: Kind bars aren’t actually ‘healthy’” (14 April 2015)
- The Daily Beast: Links to Bloomberg article listed above.
Only the Huffington Post Got the Story Right
Only one major media outlet got the story right. The Huffington Post reported “Why The FDA Action Against KIND Bars Doesn’t Mean They’re Unhealthy.”