Diamond Foods sells walnuts both in and out of the shell and they list the health benefits on the packaging as well as on the company's website. It is the benefits claim that displeases the Food and Drug Administration. According to the New America website, the health benefits listed by Diamond are truthful and the FDA has decided to take action on their declaration.
The federal agency sent the company a letter that stated, in part, “Your walnut products are drugs” — and “new drugs” at that — and, therefore, “they may not legally be marketed … in the United States without an approved new drug application.” The FDA went as far as to threaten the company with "seizure" of products if they did not comply.
This sounds like the government is going too far. Diamond Foods wanted to educate the public about the health benefits of eating walnuts. The information they used can be found in published articles in "The U.S. Library of Medicine's" database. You will find at least 35 peer-reviewed published papers offered from this source that support Diamond's claims that walnuts improve vascular health and may work to reduce the risk of a heart attack.
According to New America the benefits claimed by Diamond Foods and listed on the company's website include, "the omega-3 fatty acids found in walnuts have been shown to have certain health benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease and some types of cancer." That claim is well supported by scientific research. The website does not appear to have this listed anymore. The only benefits of eating walnuts listed today on the Diamond Foods site are generic vitamin claims found on most packaged food.
It appears that the FDA does not accept the evidence from The U.S. Library of Medicine, as they communicated to Diamond that their "product bears health claims that are not authorized by the FDA." William Falcon of Life Extension Magazine says that the language used by the FDA ,“resembles that of an out-of-control police state where tyranny [reigns] over rationality.”
The FDA writes to Diamond Foods, “Based on our review, we have concluded that your walnut products are in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the Act) and the applicable regulations in Title 21, Code of Federal Regulations (21 CFR). Based on claims made on your firm’s website, we have determined that your walnut products are promoted for conditions that cause them to be drugs because the products are intended for use in the prevention, mitigation, and treatment of disease."
The FDA allows certain brands of potato chips to be advertised as "heart healthy," according to Falcon's article. These products include Lays Potato Chips, Doritos, Tostitos, Cheetos and Fritos. Yet walnuts, which are grown naturally and come out of their shell right into a consumer's mouth, are not allowed to be promoted as benefiting the same heart health? This hardly seems reasonable.