FDA Approves New Nutrition Panel that Highlights Sugar Levels

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Good news from the FDA on improving nutrition facts labeling. The following article comes from the Wall Street Journal, and does a great job outlining the changes.


U.S. food regulators approved the most radical overhaul of nutrition policy in decades, putting sugar squarely in its crosshairs in an attempt to change how Americans eat and drink.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said a new nutrition-facts panel that appears on the back of all packaged food and beverages will list how many grams of sugar have been added by manufacturers and what percentage of the recommended daily maximum that represents.

The FDA's decision to break out added sugar from the total sugar count already on packaging culminates a yearslong push by the Obama administration into stiff opposition from food and beverage companies, which say there is no difference between naturally present sugars and added sugars.

Health officials say added sugars have no nutritional value and increase overall caloric intake, helping fuel obesity and diabetes while steering Americans away from nutrient-rich foods. Until now, nutrition panels have flagged recommended maximums for fats, sodium, cholesterol and carbohydrates but not for sugar.

First lady Michelle Obama will announce the changes in an annual nutrition summit in Washington.

The new rules aimed at cracking down on the country's sweet tooth could cause label shock for many consumers, and it is expected to deal a big blow to food and beverage makers, especially those in the soft-drink industry. A 20-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola, for instance, contains about 130% of the daily recommended maximum for added sugar.

Despite increasingly branching out into bottled waters and other zero-calorie offerings, Coca-Cola Co. still derives about 70% of its sales from carbonated soft drinks like Coke, Sprite and Fanta.

Government health officials recommend eating no more than 50 grams of added sugars—or 12.5 teaspoons of granulated sugar—a day, based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

However, the FDA estimates Americans on average eat the equivalent of 20 teaspoons of granulated sugar through added sugars like honey, high fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners.

One serving of low-fat vanilla yogurt can have three to four teaspoons of added sugar per serving, in addition to the natural sugar from the milk. Flavored oatmeal also can have as many as three teaspoons of added sugar.

Even savory foods have added sugar, like pasta sauce, which often has 10% of the recommended daily intake per serving.

Still, the government says the biggest sources of added sugars are the obvious ones: in descending order, soda, energy and sports drinks, grain-based desserts, sugar-sweetened fruit drinks, dairy-based desserts and candy.

The spotlight on sugar could damage sales, pushing dozens of major companies—including General Mills Inc., PepsiCo Inc., Campbell's Soup Co. and Coca-Cola—to further reformulate products. Many already are wrestling with falling demand for processed foods and sugary drinks as consumers shop for fresher, healthier alternatives.

Soda producers also are being targeted by local politicians. Philadelphia's mayor has proposed a tax of 3 cents per ounce on sugar-added drinks, potentially increasing prices by more than half, and lawmakers in Illinois have resurrected the idea of a soda tax in their budget talks. In July, San Francisco will begin requiring advertisements for sugary drinks to be accompanied by warnings that they contribute to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.

The FDA proposed initial changes to the nutrition label in early 2014, sparking thousands of letters from interested parties, including food and beverage companies. It first proposed including the recommended maximum daily percentage for added sugars last summer.

Until now, nutritional labels have remained essentially unchanged since 1994, except for the addition of heart-risky trans fats in 2006.

Manufacturers have two years to comply with the new regulation, though they could still challenge the changes in court. Those with less than $10 million in annual food sales will have three years.

 

 

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