This should be interesting.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed a new regulation requiring a new line item to be added to the Nutrition Facts label that is mandatory for every packaged foodstuff sold in the U.S.: “Added Sugars”. Oooo.
That’s a huge leap for this agency since it historically has often ignored human health hazards in favor of political agendas. Do added sugars really pose a human health hazard? You better believe it.
Evidence of study after study after study has concluded that added sugars (those not naturally occurring in a particular food) are responsible (at least in part) to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, skin conditions, liver failure, neurodegenerative disease, and more fun stuff.
The consumption of just one can of regular soda per day increases your risk of heart attack by thirty percent. Yes, 30%.
Sugar is highly addictive and is added to most packaged foods.
The FDA’s reason for recommending the revised label:
“Obesity, heart disease and other chronic diseases are leading public health problems. The proposed new label is intended to bring attention to calories and serving sizes, which are important in addressing these problems. Further, we are now proposing to require the listing of added sugars. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends reducing calories from added sugars and solid fats.”
This sounds oddly like the FDA is doing one of the things that it’s supposed to do: requiring full transparency and disclosure of ingredients in processed food so that the consumer can make an informed decision. Fantastic!
But wait, there’s more.
The proposed new label will undergo a significant overhaul that will include the following in addition to the new line for Added Sugars:
- Larger and bolder type on calories
- Number of servings per package will be more prominent
- Update of serving size requirements
- Update of Daily Values for various nutrients
- Vitamin D and potassium content will be required
The window for public comment ended on August 1, 2014. There were almost 290,000 responses.
The Union of Concerned Scientists supports the new label.
In a statement on July 1, 2014, Gretchen Goldman, a lead analyst at the Center for Science and Democracy, addressed five major arguments put forward by opponents of putting “Added Sugars” on the revised label.
She cites in an earlier article the significant abuse by the sugar industry to warp the science around sugar to mitigate the public’s growing concern over its prevalence and health implications, documented in the Union’s report Added Sugar, Subtracted Science. In it, there are no punches pulled from the outset:
“Sugar interests use every tool at their disposal to obstruct science-based policy on added sugar.”
Many Big Sugar/Big Food giants are opposing the exposure of Added Sugars on the label, including:
- American Bakers Association
- American Beverage Association
- American Frozen Foods Institute
- Corn Refiners Association
- International Dairy Foods Association
- National Confectioners Association
- General Mills
All but the last three are signatories on a letter of petition to the FDA to stall approval of the new label so they have time to conduct:
“qualitative and quantitative consumer perception research relevant to proposed changes in the Nutrition Facts Panel…We believe such consumer research is essential to measure likely consumer understanding of the proposed changes, behavioral response to the proposed changes and benefits of modifying the Nutrition Facts Panel.”
Frantically grasping at straws, these organizations know that if the new label is adopted, they will no longer to be able to legally hide added sugars behind their names–of which most consumers are unfamiliar: maltodextrin, dextrose, glucose, fructose, and corn syrup, to name a few.
Once consumers are made aware, they may decide to cut down on the products containing great amounts of added sugar and then where would these food companies be? The result would be the equivalent of a food revolution with profound consequences.
It’s no coincidence that the steady rise in sugar consumption over the last fifty years correlates to an increase in life-threatening diseases like ones mentioned above. The amount of sugar consumption per person per year in the U.S. has gone from 6.3 pounds a year in 1822 to 107 pounds per person per year in 1999.
Now that the comment period has closed, one can assume that the FDA is reviewing the public’s input. Do people really want to know what’s in their food? Do corporate interests mean more than Americans’ health? We shall see.