The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is seeking to change its Nutrition Facts Label to now include added sugars.
While the experts say that sugar is a toxic chemical that is also blamed on increasing obesity rates, most Americans do not know how much sugar they consume on a regular basis, according to the Burlington Patch. Meanwhile, public health advocates are also seeking increased transparency concerning added sugars in foods.
Although the FDA proposed the changes earlier this year, some high-profile lobbyists are fighting against the changes. According to the FDA, “The changes proposed to the Nutrition Facts label are based on the latest information in nutrition science, the latest consensus reports from public health agencies, and the most recent public health and nutrition surveys.”
The American Heart Association (AHA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have both indicated that, in the United States, excess sugar consumption is tied to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist who is also the leading expert in childhood obesity at the University of California, San Francisco, blames sugar obesity and chronic disease in the U.S., the Burlington Patch reported. “It’s not about the calories,” says Lustig. “It has nothing to do with the calories. It’s a poison by itself.”
Sugar is in a broad array of processed foods, including bread, milk, fruit juice, and canned beans. In fact, the typical American consumes 16 percent of his or her daily calories from sugars that have been added during the foods’ production process, according to the FDA, wrote the Burlington Patch. The AHA recommends American men consume no more than nine teaspoons of sugar daily; women should consume no more than six teaspoons of sugar each day. Meanwhile, per capita, Americans consume more than twice the daily-recommended amount of sugar, the Burlington Patch noted.
The American Bakers Association, American Beverage Association, American Frozen Foods Institute, Corn Refiners Association, International Dairy Foods Association, and National Confectioners Association, not surprisingly, are seeking additional research on the FDA’s proposed changes. In a statement, Sugar Association CEO Andy Briscoe said there does not exist a “preponderance of science as required by law to support the ‘added sugars’ recommendation,” according to the Burlington Patch
Not everyone agrees, with those in favor of the changes saying that including the added sugars on labels is needed because sugar is often disguised. Dextran, corn syrup, and fructose for example, represent just a few of the added sugars that may appear on food labels. “Now when Americans pull a product from the supermarket shelf, they will have a clear idea of how much sugar that product really contains,” AHA CEO Nancy Brown said in a statement.
Penny Kris-Etherton, chair of the AHA Nutrition Committee and a professor at Penn State, agreed with Brown, saying the proposal is a good first step. “I’m hopeful that the food industry will be incentivized to cut back on added sugars and consumers will also want to cut back,” Kris-Etherton said, “so the FDA won’t have to take additional steps that are more severe,” she added, the Burlington Patch reported.