Three Views of Added Sugar

Nutrition Facts with Added SugarPerhaps you’ve heard that FDA is moving to update the Nutrition Facts panel with information on added sugars, along with some other changes intended to make it simpler and more relevant to consumers. More than 170,000 people were moved to submit comments on this proposal before the comment period closed on August 1.

FDA is still sorting through all those comments but three points of view are coming into focus:

  1. Health Advocates. For most of the health advocates — like the Obesity Society, the American Medical Association, and the American Heart Association — the decision to support this change was easy. Recommendations from the Institute of Medicine, Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and the American Heart Association have for some time urged people to reduce their consumption of added sugars. Yet food labels make it all but impossible to tell how much added sugar a product contains. One must comb through ingredient lists and guess. Putting added sugars on the label solves the problem.
  2. Nutrition Scientists. Some nutrition scientists were more torn about this change. Legitimate worries about the unintended consequences of focusing on added sugars surfaced in their calls for more research and consensus building. Reflecting this concern, the American Society for Nutrition “recommends careful consideration of the totality of the scientific evidence, as well as consideration of compliance and other technical issues.”
  3. Food Industry. The food industry was mostly, but not uniformly opposed to this change. One of the largest industry groups — the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) — filed comments that reflected a split in their organization. The GMA majority opinion opposed added sugars labeling, thowing down every legal and scientific argument they could muster. But GMA also filed a minority view of their members supporting the change. The minority view was an unqualified endorsement of FDA’s proposal, saying “ample evidence shows that distinguishing the amount of added sugars from naturally occurring sugars present in foods will help consumers to maintain healthful dietary practices.”

One of the most (unintentionally) entertaining comments came from the California Dairy Institute. “Lactose in its pure form,” they said, should not be counted as added sugar when added to a food product. We give them credit for boldness.

“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.” — Buddha

Click here to browse through the public comments and here to read more from Reuters.

Blueberries with Added Sugar, photograph © Raj Stevenson / flickr

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2 Responses to “Three Views of Added Sugar”

  1. August 20, 2014 at 8:54 am, Amiee said:

    Obesity is the chameleon of diseases … the silent disease…. it takes on many faces, heart failure, high blood pressure, diabetes and it could go on forever. Obesity doesn’t come in just ONE size fits all .. you could be small, mid, or larger, its all based on whats over weight for YOUR body. What we want, to help happen is the awareness of this disease, it causes over 120,000 PREVENTABLE deaths a year. That’s a hard number to swallow no matter what it was dressed up as. We want people to know that its more than exercise, its about confidence, smart food choices, health, family, and above all, that this is a REAL threat to not only you, me, but OUR children. Childhood obesity is alarmingly high, and It no longer affects our older generation, but now has trickled down to… our children… Our future. Ill leave you with this. This is the FIRST generation of children that may not outlive their parents. Help us make a healthier future, and by doing that you’re not only helping yourself but someone you love. Please help share this page:
    ( ) and our message.

    • August 20, 2014 at 11:03 am, Ted said:

      Amiee, thanks for taking the time to comment and for working on this problem.