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FDA Wants to Update Nutrition Labels

Jul 11, 2014

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is making an effort to make nutrition fact labels more transparent, but some lobbyists and industry groups are looking to undermine these efforts. In February, the agency proposed changes, including listing added sugar.

Added sugar is found in many processed food products, including bread, fruit juice and canned beans. The FDA notes in its proposal that the average American eats 16 percent of his or her daily calories from sugars added during production. Consuming excess amounts of sugar is associated with an increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity in the United States. “It’s not about the calories,” said Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist and the leading expert in childhood obesity at the University of California, San Francisco. “It has nothing to do with the calories. It’s a poison by itself.”

Michael Landa, director of FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said in the proposal that “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.”

"I’m hopeful that the food industry will be incentivized to cut back on added sugars and consumers will also want to cut back so the FDA won’t have to take additional steps that are more severe." said Penny Kris-Etherton, chair of the AHA Nutrition Committee and a professor at Penn State.

Several industry groups are resisting the proposal and are calling for more research in a letter to the FDA in June, including The American Bakers Association, American Beverage Association, American Frozen Foods Institute, Corn Refiners Association, International Dairy Foods Association and National Confectioners Association.

Those who support the proposals point out that the changes are necessary because added sugar is often disguised. Dextran, corn syrup and fructose are all added sugars, for example.

The American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown said in a statement that "Now when Americans pull a product from the supermarket shelf, they will have a clear idea of how much sugar that product really contains,"

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