F.D.A. Wants Food Labels to Quantify Added Sugars

The Food and Drug Administration proposed on Friday that nutrition labels on packaged foods cite the amount of added sugars they contain as a percentage of the recommended daily calorie intake.

The proposal brought immediate criticism from manufacturers of foods and beverages, which claimed that the labels would confuse customers and that dietary limits on added sugars were not scientifically justified.

Added sugars are those not found in foods before they are produced and packaged. Federal officials recommend that Americans limit added sugars to just 10 percent of their daily calories.

Last year, for the first time, the F.D.A. proposed that companies list added sugars on nutrition labels, but consumers would have had to do the math themselves to determine the percentage of calories. Under the new proposal, nutritional labels would lay out that figure.

Agency officials determined that 50 grams of added sugars should be the upper dietary limit, or daily value, for adults and children aged 4 and older.

That means “one 16-ounce soda, and that’s it for added sugars for the day,” said Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University.

Professor Nestle predicted that the label change would not only “affect the choices of the subset of people who read labels” but also, more important, “encourage food manufacturers to look harder for ways to cut down on added sugar in their products.”

Officials at the Grocery Manufacturers Association, a trade group, criticized as inadequate the standards the agency used to establish a dietary value for added sugars.

“Before F.D.A. requires that a percent dietary value be declared for any nutrient, it must assure that the dietary value is based on intake levels evaluated through an independent, rigorous scientific process,” the organization said in a statement.

Last year, the International Food Information Council Foundation, a research organization financed by the food and beverage industry, conducted a survey in which consumers were asked to interpret food labels with information on added sugars.

The survey, published last month in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, found that the new language confused a majority of the 1,088 respondents, who mistakenly thought that products with labels listing added sugars contained more sugar than they actually did. People seemed to think “added sugars” were in addition to the total sugar listed.

The survey also found that consumers would be less likely to buy a product if its nutrition panel listed added sugars.

Source: New York Times

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