Jesse Laflamme spent years trying to save his family’s third-generation egg farm from bankruptcy, including waking up every day at 4 a.m. to rouse stubborn hens. Today, with $177 million in annual revenue, Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs is the No. 2 egg brand in the country–yet it’s once again staring down impossible odds: getting the FDA to change its rules on what it considers “healthy.”
The Food and Drug Administration has strict rules governing food labels’ nutrient content claims, but it also broadcasts puzzling inconsistencies. For example, the agency says an egg has too much fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol to be considered healthy, but seemingly bad-for-you foods like low-fat pudding, which may be rich in potassium, calcium, iron, and vitamin D are considered healthy.
Meanwhile, the FDA itself says it plans to change its rules regarding what it deems healthy, but it’s unclear when it’ll do so. It first announced its plans to redefine the “healthy” nutrient content claim for food labeling in September of 2016, and extended the comment period to April of last year. Few details have been released since then, and the FDA did not answer Inc.’s specific questions about the status of the redefinition and criteria, whether there have been any updates to the public process, and why it has taken so long.
To Laflamme, the CEO of Pete and Gerry’s, the FDA’s delay is insult to injury. “It’s so antiquated and out of touch. The idea that a toaster pastry–a Pop Tart–is healthy or that Jell-O is healthy is crazy… We know we are shortchanging ourselves by not being able to say eggs are healthy,” says Laflamme. “This is stupid, and it’s time to fight back.”
Taking the FDA to task.
So he did. Pete and Gerry’s filed a citizen’s petition with the FDA in late April, calling for the agency to modify its labeling regulations so egg brands can put the word “healthy” on their products. To the best of Laflamme’s knowledge, no other egg company has filed a similar petition with the FDA.
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