Yes, the Nutrition Facts label is getting a revamp.
And yes, one of the key changes is a new line for added sugars.
Isn't it time to dig a little deeper into that particular section?
Let's take a closer look!
The FDA defines added sugars as...
Sugars, such as cane sugar, beet sugar, brown sugar, dextrose, glucose, invert sugar, lactose, and maltose; Syrups, such as high fructose corn syrup, crystalline fructose, maltitol syrup, and maple syrup; Naturally occurring sugars that are isolated from a whole food and concentrated so that sugar is the primary component, such as fruit juice concentrates; and Other caloric sweeteners, including honey, molasses, corn sweetener, and table sugar (source).
Health educators lauded the decision to add a line for added sugars on the new label. After all, it's a great way to make packaged foods more transparent to consumers. A similar desire was behind the transition in the first place. After all, the FDA states...
The added sugars declarations, together with the other nutrient declaration on the nutrition label, contribute to the marketplace of ideas by providing information that may help consumers to use and understand the amount of added sugars, along with the other nutrients listed, in constructing a healthy dietary pattern to reduce the risk of chronic disease and achieve a calorie intake that limits excess intake of empty calories from unhealthy types of fats and from added sugars (source).
This final rule has just gone into effect (on July 26, 2016 to be exact). Large manufacturers have until July 26, 2018 to become compliant with this new labeling law, and smaller manufacturers get until July 26, 2019 to bring their labels up to snuff.
Since naturally-occurring sugars and added sugars can both be present in a food at the same time, the FDA is also "requiring manufacturers to make and keep records to verify the declared amount of added sugars in the food [And] requiring manufacturers to make and keep records to verify the declared amount of added sugars in specific foods, alone or in combination with naturally occurring sugars, where the added sugars are subject to non- enzymatic browning and/or fermentation" (source).
These changes have been made because the FDA believes that this additional information will help improve consumers' health. In their policy document, Food Labeling: Revision of the Nutrition and Supplement Facts Labels; Serving Sizes of Foods That Can Reasonably Be Consumed at One Eating Occasion; Dual-Column Labeling; Updating, Modifying, and Establishing Certain Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed; Serving Size for Breath Mints; and Technical Amendments; Final Rules, the FDA explains...
There is evidence showing that Americans are consuming too many calories from added sugars as well as evidence that it is difficult to meet nutrient needs within calorie limits when excessive amounts of added sugars are consumed.
They go on to say...
We previously have discussed in this section that added sugars, independent of sugars naturally present in foods, can have a negative impact on health. A decision to not require a separate declaration of added sugars on the label would not allow consumers to determine the additional sugars which have been added above and beyond what is naturally present in a food which are contributing extra calories to their diet and could also contribute to a dietary pattern that is associated with disease risk.
This adjustment is great news for health, and there are lots of ways that you can make this new label interesting and accessible to your clients. After all, now that the information will be there, it's vital to start acting on it, right?
Here are a few resources my team and I have created for you!
And here's a handout that summarizes what the FDA is doing with added sugar labels and why...
Remember, we're here to help you look your very best, right now.
Stephanie Ronco has been editing for Food and Health Communications since 2011. She graduated from Colorado College magna cum laude with distinction in Comparative Literature. She was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2008.