FDA proposes including DV for added sugars on the Nutrition Facts panel

By Elaine Watson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Picture: Istockphoto: i frontier
Picture: Istockphoto: i frontier

Related tags: Added sugar, Nutrition

UPDATED: The FDA is proposing that manufacturers include a percent daily value (DV) for added sugar on the Nutrition Facts panel – set at 10% of total energy intakes (calories) - in addition to listing the amount of added sugar (in grams).

So for adults and children over four years advised to consume 2,000 calories a day, that would mean aiming to eat no more than 200 calories (50g) from added sugar. (The FDA proposes 25g for children aged one to three.)

Unveiling the proposal – which will be subject to a 75-day public comment period – the FDA said that the move would “help consumers make informed choices”.

It added: “The FDA considered the scientific evidence that the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) used, which showed that it is difficult to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie requirements if one exceeds 10% of total calories from added sugar, and has determined that this information supports this daily value for added sugars.”

The FDA, which has faced criticism for singling out added sugars (as biochemically, sugar is sugar - whether it occurs naturally in foods such as fruits or is added to a product such as soda), also noted that its “initial proposal ​[announced in 2014] to include the amount of added sugars on the Nutrition Facts label is now further supported by newly reviewed studies​”.

FDA: Added sugars add empty calories

It added: “When sugars are added to foods and beverages to sweeten them, they add calories without providing additional nutrients​.”

Given that the Dietary Guidelines urge Americans to reduce calorie intakes from added sugar, helping them identify foods that actually contain it seems like a no-brainer, said Susan Mayne, Ph.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

“For the past decade, consumers have been advised to reduce their intake of added sugars, and the proposed percent daily value for added sugars on the Nutrition Facts label is intended to help consumers follow that advice.”

The FDA said that it is also "considering whether to use the term “Total Sugars” instead of “Sugars” on the label if we finalize a declaration of 'added sugars'"​ for extra clarity.

"A consumer who drinks a 20-ounce sugared beverage may be surprised to know it contains about 66g of added sugar, which would be listed on the label as 132% of the Daily Value.​" Susan Mayne, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at the FDA

CSPI: This is a major public health victory

Commenting on the move in her Food Politics blog​, Dr Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University, said: “Congratulations to the FDA for this one.  Let’s hope it sticks.”

Jim O’Hara, health promotion policy director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said the move was a “major public health victory​”, although the CSPI would like the amount of added sugar to be expressed in teaspoons as well as grams.

He added: “It’s about time consumers knew that a 20-ounce soda has 130 percent of the added sugars they should consume each day.”

GMA: DV must be based on intake levels evaluated through an independent, rigorous, scientific process such as used by the IOM

However, the  Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) said it had reservations about how the the 10% figure had been arrived at: “We did note that they are basing their proposed DV for added sugars on the DGAC recommendations rather than on IOM (Institute of Medicine) recommendations.

"This raises serious concerns because the DGAC did not use the rigorous approach used by the IOM when developing recommend nutrient intakes, a point we made in formal comments on the DGAC advisory committee report, but instead relied on food pattern modeling and existing reports.  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 Sugar Association: FDA proposals 'lack adequate scientific evidence'

Not surprisingly, the Sugar  Association also has concerns about the proposed move, which it argues is "misguided​": "Unfortunately, from an initial review of their supplemental proposal to require a declaration of the percent daily value for "added sugars," 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. 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."

"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."​  Susan Mayne, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at the FDA

The added sugar debate

While the proposed changes to the Nutrition Facts panel ​ will impact some companies more than others, the proposal to single out ‘added sugars’ has generated the most heated debate, with the GMA revealing last year that its membership is split over this issue, with the majority opposed, but a minority in favor, albeit with some caveats.

It said: “By mandating the separate labeling of added sugars, most GMA members believe that FDA is strongly implying to consumers that added sugars are indeed distinct and different from (and less healthful than) inherent sugars, when they are not. Thus, added sugar labeling may convey false and misleading information to consumers.”

fat-label-istock-Michael Flippo
Nestlé U.S: 'We want to help consumers make informed decisions about their added sugar intake '

However, some GMA members agree with the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association that listing added sugars will help consumers identify foods with more empty calories.

Nestlé USA supports the proposal

Nestlé, for example, supports the recommendations, said president of Nestlé U.S. corporate affairs Paul Bakus: “It might sound surprising coming from a major food company, but Nestlé supports the FDA's recommendation on added sugars...

“We want to help consumers make informed decisions about their added sugar intake as part of a balanced diet.”

For more details about the new proposals, CLICK HERE.

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