Most people know when they look at a 20-ounce bottle of a soft drink that it contains added sugar. However, they rarely translate the number on the label into a tangible image. If the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has its way, the data on “added sugars” will be added to the nutrition label on food and drink packages.
In the future, a bottle of Coke may say there are approximately 65 grams of added sugar. It could also indicate that the sugar quantity in the one bottle represents 130 percent of the amount recommended that an adult consume in a given day. It is a step, but still will not conjure up images of the 16 teaspoons of sugar poured into each container.
The label changes and noting added sugars have been mentioned but not pursued previously. However, on Friday, the FDA announced that its proposal for nutritional labels on food and beverage containers formally be amended to include both the amount in grams of added sugars (besides overall sugar content) and the percent of Daily Value (% DV) of added sugars in that item, much like recommended amounts are published for protein and various vitamins. (Recommended daily values are based on a 2,000-calorie daily diet for adults; for sugar, the amount in 12 teaspoons.)
While sugar content in general is already on labels, many believe added sugars tells a better story. There may be natural sugar content in the raisins in a cereal, but the manufacturer may also add several teaspoonfuls to each package. So both total sugar and added sugar would be on the labels, according to the proposal.
The “FDA’s initial proposal to include the amount of added sugars on the Nutrition Facts label is now further supported by newly reviewed studies,” according to an FDA blog post Dr. Susan Mayne, the FDA’s director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “Scientific data shows that it is difficult to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie requirements if you consume more than 10 percent of your total daily calories from added sugar,” Mayne wrote. She also noted that promoting (and following) healthier diets, including lower amounts of sugar-sweetened foods and beverages, would lead to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
Regardless of the labels, consumers can (and still do) choose an item heavily loaded in sugar, calories, fat or whatever. The FDA just wants to help people make more educated decisions.
While it seems like a good idea, the efficacy is questionable. The government believes that indicating how much sugar is in one items, relative to the daily limits recommended, with have an impact. They also clearly believe that people will read the labels, a belief that has not been noticeably effective in changing other behaviors like numbers of calories consumed daily.
FDA ‘added sugars’ and other information on the nutrition label, as the agency proposes, reflect adult amounts. For sugars, however, the amount of 50 grams or 12 teaspoons per day is the same for children age 4 and older. For toddlers ages 1 through 3, the recommended limit is half of that amount.
Written and edited by Dyanne Weiss
New York Daily News: Food and Drug Administration proposes new ‘added sugars’ nutrition label
U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Putting Added Sugars Into Context for Consumers
NPR: No More Hidden Sugar: FDA Proposes New Label Rule