June 18, 2018

Study Shows FDA Added Sugars Label Confuses Consumers

Majority of consumers incorrectly believe that retail bags or boxes of pure sugar contain added sugars.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Newly released consumer research shows that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) regulation to label retail bags and boxes of sugar as added sugars on the Nutrition Facts label is confusing to consumers. According to the March 2018 research1, 90% of consumers incorrectly interpreted FDA’s label to mean that sugars were added to sugar and 69% thought that a bag or box of sugar was not a “pure” product.

“The simple fact is that there are no added sugars in sugar. Sugar is extracted from plants; it is a pure, single ingredient product with nothing added to it,” the Sugar Association President and CEO Dr. Courtney Gaine said. “Labeling sugar as added sugars is inaccurate, misleading, and confusing to consumers. There should be no added sugars labeling requirement for individual packages of pure sugar.”

However, when shown a version of the Nutrition Facts Label that declares 0 grams of added sugars in a bag or box of sugar, 90% felt that it best conveyed sugar being pure with nothing added to it. Additionally, 70% said that the 0 grams of added sugars label best conveyed that there are 8 grams of sugar in a serving.

FDA has also proposed a disclaimer for honey and maple syrup which would state that added sugars in honey and maple syrup are naturally occurring. This proposal was made without consumer testing and this new research shows that the disclaimer confuses consumers even more. In fact, 86% said there were sugars added to the products that included the disclaimer. Additionally, while sugar, honey and maple syrup are all pure, single ingredient products, the proposed disclaimer is only applicable to honey and maple syrup. If FDA pursues the use of a disclaimer, then all of these pure sweeteners should be labeled the same to avoid added confusion.

The FDA is currently considering official guidance that could result in enforcement policy modifications in specific situations. The final regulation is due to take effect January 1, 2020 for manufacturers with $10 million or more in annual food sales (manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales will receive until January 1, 2021 to comply). But FDA can issue official guidance that can clarify ambiguities in the final regulation before those dates.

“Consumers know what sugar is and a requirement to label individual packages of pure sugar as added sugars is inaccurate and confusing,” said Dr. Gaine. “The most accurate label is one where retail bags and boxes of sugar state 0 grams added sugars.”


About the Sugar Association:
The Sugar Association, founded in 1943, is the scientific voice of the U.S. sugar industry. The association is committed to making a difference by continuously supporting scientific research and sharing its knowledge that there’s more to sugar by increasing consumer understanding of and confidence in the role that sugar plays in a nutritious, balanced and enjoyable diet. The Sugar Association represents nearly 12,000 beet and cane sugar growers, as well as processors and refiners of sugar. The U.S. sugar industry generates 142,000 jobs in 22 states and contributes $20 billion to the economy annually. For more information, visit, follow us on Twitter, and connect with us on Facebook.

Chris Hogan
Vice President of Communications
T: 202.785.1122


1. The Sugar Perceptions survey was conducted with a representative sample of 1,049 U.S. consumers. The sample was balanced to reflect the U.S. population demographically and geographically. The survey used five different Nutrition Facts labels and tested consumers’ comprehension to each of them alone as well in comparison with others.

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