Kind CEO takes on special interests in the food industry

Kind CEO Daniel Lubetzky is committing $25 million over 10 years to create an organization called Feed the Truth. Its goal is to promote “public health over special interests” and to stop what it calls “biased science” funded by food groups from influencing nutrition policy.

On “CBS This Morning,” Lubetzky said he felt the need to “level the playing field to allow scientists and nutritionists and doctors to be the ones that really help us inform public policy.”

Lubetzky and his company clashed with the FDA in 2015 after Kind was told it could not label its fruit-and-nut bars as “healthy” because of the amount of fats they contained. The agency later reversed course.

To Lubetzky, it didn’t make sense. “How could it be that under the current regulation, you can have steak of salmon or a bunch of almonds or olives or half an avocado and that cannot be determined healthy, but you can have sugar in children’s cereal enriched with vitamins — something whose No. 1 ingredient is sugar — and that can be called healthy?” he said.

He pointed to a report last fall that the sugar industry paid Harvard scientists in the 1960s to “deflect attention from sugar and point the finger at fat.”

“And it’s not just sugar. It’s every special interest sometimes gets a little bit overzealous and doesn’t think about what is really the best interest of people,” Lubetzky said.

Among the early advisers for Feed the Truth is Debra Eschmeyer, former White House senior adviser for nutrition policy under President Obama. She will be one of the committee members who will be helping select the board of directors.

“The last time that the definition of ‘healthy’ was redefined by the Food and Drug Administration was 1993, so it’s up for redefinition,” Eschmeyer said.

She pointed to the abundance of lobbyists advocating for their ingredient or food group in Washington, D.C.

“Just in 2016, 600 food groups lobbied the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” Eschmeyer said.

So the new organization hopes to “strengthen the science and we need to strengthen the information that the public has around what is healthy,” Eschmeyer said.

“Because you shouldn’t have to be a registered dietician to go into the grocery store to decide what to pick up and put in your grocery cart,” she added.