WASHINGTON, July 24, 2015 – In an effort to get Americans to cut sugar consumption, the Food and Drug Administration is proposing to require nutrition labels to disclose the content of added sugars as a percentage of a recommended daily limit.

That recommended daily limit, or Daily Reference Value, would be set at 10 percent of total energy intake from added sugars. Putting the percentage on the Nutrition Facts Label “would help consumers make informed choices for themselves and their families,” FDA said. The proposal expands on earlier changes to the Nutrition Facts label that the agency released in 2014.

The daily limit is equivalent to 12 teaspoons of added sugar a day, so a 20-ounce soda would exceed that by 30 percent, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group. CSPI supports the plan but also is urging FDA to require sugar content to be listed in teaspoons rather than grams.

In a proposed rule, FDA said its plan is based on consumer research as well as findings by the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which recommended food labels list added sugars as a percentage of the daily value.

The committee said that added sugars account for 13.4 percent of total calories that the U.S. population consumes and that nearly 90 percent of the general population exceeded the recommended limit.

FDA tested label statements with consumers to see how they responded to variations in wording and sugar content. The agency found that “declarations of higher amounts of added sugars tended to produce more negative judgments about the product’s healthfulness.”

Bruce Silverglade, an attorney who specializes in food policy at OFW Law, said the latest proposal was premature, since the Agriculture Department and Department of Health and Human Services hadn’t yet formally accepted the advisory committee’s report.

The FDA is “once again ahead of itself,” he said. He also noted that the consumer research indicated consumer confusion between the terms “added sugar” and “sugars.” Both would be listed on the label under FDA’s plan.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association also criticized FDA for relying on the advisory committee’s report, saying it lacked the “rigorous approach” of an earlier analysis by the Institute of Medicine, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Before FDA requires that a percent DV be declared for any nutrient, it must assure that the DV is based on intake levels evaluated through an independent, rigorous, scientific process such as used by the IOM,” the association said in a statement.

But a member of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees FDA, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said the FDA proposal would help combat diabetes and obesity.

“Providing needed context for an acceptable intake of added sugars will make it clear to consumers that added sugars should be limited,” she said.

The label has traditionally only required listing total sugar content. The 2014 proposed rule called for listing added sugars as well as a series of other changes, including updating daily values for sodium, dietary fiber and Vitamin D.

The FDA’s new proposal also would change the explanation of daily value in the footnote on the nutrition label. The label has only been changed once previously, to require listing of trans fat content. 

The Sugar Association, which represents major producers including the Imperial Sugar Co. and American Sugar Refining Inc., said it would submit comprehensive comments opposing the FDA proposal and examining the scientific evidence at the basis of what it calls “this misguided recommendation.”

While acknowledging that FDA has an important role in ensuring consumers aren’t misled by claims being made about the food they purchase and consume, the Sugar Association said that in this case, judging from an initial review, “it appears they are making assertions that lack adequate scientific evidence.”

The FDA’s recommendations are based on the limited and weak scientific evidence found in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines report,” the Sugar Association said in an e-mailed statement. “Oddly, the quality and strength of the science used to support the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s ‘added sugars’ recommendations would not meet FDA’s own high standards for scientific integrity.”

“The fact is that the preponderance of science and the data on caloric sweeteners do not support a suggested limit on sugars intake.”

The International Dairy Association also feels that a separate listing of added sugars is unwarranted. In comments filed a year ago on the original proposal, IDFA said there is no scientific support for distinguishing between “added sugar” and “naturally occurring” sugars.

“All sugars have the same nutritional impact – a gram of sugar is a gram of sugar. Nor does the body distinguish between naturally occurring and added sugars.” IDFA said Friday that it was reviewing the latest proposal but still had the same concerns about listing added sugars, including that it could include some dairy ingredients. 

 (This story was updated at 2 p.m.)

Read about other FDA and ag and rural policy news. Sign up for a four-week free trial Agri-Pulse subscription.


For more news go to www.Agri-Pulse.com