Americans eat way too much added sugar. That’s old news. What’s new? The FDA might update nutrition labels to reveal exactly how much of the sweet stuff is added to our food.
The average American sweet tooth consumes over 150 pounds of added sugar each year (that’s the weight of the Oxford English Dictionary’s complete 20 volume set). While the sugar industry argues that our bodies don’t treat added sugars differently than naturally occurring sugars, they’re not giving us the full picture.
The American Heart Association, World Health Association, Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, and countless other health organizations, all point to evidence that no more than 10% of daily calories should come from added sugars. But if the sugar industry claims that added sugars are equal to natural sugars, why limit ourselves?
The answer, put simply, is that added sugar is additional; consuming over 10% of added sugar is considered excessive. “Biochemically, the sugars are the same, but what is different is the food that has naturally occurring sugars are nutrient dense,” explained Rachel K. Johnson, Ph.D., R.D., and past chair of the American Heart Association’s nutrition committee. In other words, when calories from added sugars show up in your diet, they’re useless calories; you aren’t adding nutrients.
And the government may finally be sweetening up to this science. In fact, the FDA is erring in favor of revising its long held stance on sugar that, “no daily reference value has been established for sugars because no recommendations have been made for the total amount to eat in a day.” (Right, because it’s not like numerous recommendations haven’t consistently been made for some time.)
So, what does this potential update mean for you? Nutrition labels will be even more transparent by:
Requiring the declaration of added sugars (ie sugars that are not naturally occurring in food)
Including the percent daily value (%DV) for added sugars, based on the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s recommendation that added sugars should not exceed 10% of total calories
These changes would almost definitely hurt processed food sales on top of the 2.3 billion dollars the FDA acknowledges that “companies would incur as a one time expenditure for labeling, reformulation of products, and record keeping”. Luckily the sugar industry, beverage industry, and other processed food corporate proponents aren’t the only ones with a say on the matter.
The FDA is taking comments from the public on this proposed rule until October 13th, 2015. So if you want to weigh in on refining the Nutrition Facts Label, comment here with your thoughts on increasing nutrition transparency.