No Sugar

When Adding Sugar Doesn’t Add Up to Added Sugar

New Nutrition Facts Label, FinalWe are in the midst of a great change in how our food is labeled for nutrition. The Nutrition Facts label goes back to 1993, with no changes since 1999. That’s when trans fats gained a place on the label. Now, starting in 2020, the label will call out added sugar.

That should be simple, right? But in regulation, the devil is always in the details. And thanks to those devilish details, food makers now have a way to add a sugar without having to call it out on the label.

A Sugar That Doesn’t Count

We learned this week that a relatively rare sugar – allulose – won’t count as an added sugar when it goes into food products. A sweet trick.

Allulose is a natural sugar that you can find in wheat, figs, and raisins. It’s a monosaccharide that looks and tastes very much like ordinary sugar. It’s not quite as sweet as sucrose – about 30 percent less sweet. But it has one tenth of the calories.

Research tells us that your body will absorb most of it, but then excrete it without burning it for energy. It may even have favorable metabolic effects. What’s not to like?

What Happens When a Rare Sugar Becomes Common?

Perhaps we will soon learn what happens when a rare sugar becomes a common fixture in our food supply. Certainly the manufacturers of allulose will see an opportunity. Added sugar is a villain. But people like their food sweet.

Bottom line, we now have a sweetener that’s a natural sugar, but no matter how much you add, it won’t count as added sugar. We can see it becoming quite common in the American food supply. Europe doesn’t yet allow it. And the rest of the world is a patchwork quilt of food regulations. But if allulose becomes popular, regulators will find a way to let it in.

Adding sugar that isn’t added sugar. It’s a regulatory miracle and a grand experiment, albeit without rigorous controls.

Click here, here, and here to read more.

No Sugar, photograph © Frank Busch / flickr

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April 20, 2019