FDA wants a re-do on ‘added sugars’ guidance

Maple syrup producers complain that a Food and Drug Administration labeling requirement will mislead consumers into thinking sugar is added to their product. The FDA said June 19 that it will work on trying not to confuse the public.

The Food and Drug Administration has revised nutrition label guidance for honey, maple syrup and cranberry juice, responding to complaints that a previous proposal would sour consumers on those products.

In a statement last week, the FDA said it was taking another try at conveying that pure honey and pure maple syrup add sugar to diets, without implying that producers mix in additional sugar.

The FDA also moved to inform consumers that cranberry products sweetened with sugar may still have less sugar than naturally sweet fruit products.

The honey and maple syrup industries were especially alarmed by FDA’s plan to require labels to report naturally occurring sugar as “added sugars.” Producers complained the FDA was mangling words.

Under the FDA’s new guidance, honey and maple syrup labels will still report “total sugars,” but the “added sugars” line will be stricken.

Another line will give the “daily value for added sugars” to help consumers keep daily sugar intake within dietary guidelines. The FDA suggested labels have footnotes explaining what that means.

Here’s the FDA’s example: “One serving adds 10 (grams) of sugar to your diet and represents 20% of the Daily Value for Added Sugars.”

The footnote assumes a 2,000-calorie per day diet.

Washington commercial beekeeper Tim Hiatt of Ephrata said he was a little surprised that the FDA retained any mention of “added sugars.”

“It’s a bit of a nanny state overreach,” he said. “People, if they want to, should be free to eat a lot of honey or maple syrup.”

Still, he said, “to me, as a honey producer, it’s a step in the right direction. … It’s probably something we can live with.”

Cranberry products have added sugar. But the FDA will allow nutrition facts labels to include a footnote informing consumers that the sugar was added because cranberries are naturally tart.

“Our intent with this additional information is to help American consumers more easily understand how certain sweetened cranberry products can be part of a healthy dietary pattern,” according to a statement from Susan Mayne, the director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

Besieged with complaints and some mockery about about its use of the words “added sugars,” the FDA last year agreed to reconsider its nutrition label guidance. The 2018 Farm Bill further quashed the proposal by prohibiting the FDA from requiring the “added sugars” declaration on single-ingredient sugars, honey, maple syrup and agave.

The Sugar Association, a trade group, said it supported the FDA’s treatment of cranberry products. But it said other healthy products such as yogurt and high-fiber cereal also could benefit from such a disclaimer.

The association also said that “daily value for added sugars” may confuse consumers.

The FDA should have “consumer-tested” the label before finalizing the guidance, Sugar Association President and CEO Courtney Gaine said in a written statement.

“We have no idea if this information serves as a constructive tool that enables people to follow the dietary guidelines and is not information that is misleading,” Gaine stated.

The FDA said Tuesday it will push back the date that honey, maple syrup and cranberry products have to comply with the guidance by one year to July 1, 2021. The guidance is part of an overhaul of nutrition labels on foods due to take effect next year.

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