If you’ve ever wondered how much sugar is in a product, just turn to the nutrition facts panel (NFP). For more than two decades a product’s total “sugars” are prominently displayed on the NFP. This value includes both all-natural sugar and the growing number of other man-made, caloric sweeteners used in today’s food and beverage products.

When and if “sugars” are added, the types of “added sugars” must be declared on the product’s ingredients statement. The ingredients statement will list all-natural sugar as sugar/sucrose and other caloric sweeteners by name in order of the amount in the product relative to all other ingredients. The amount that is added is incorporated into the “sugars” total.

What is currently being debated is the FDA’s proposal to separate “added sugars” from total “sugars” on the NFP. This debate is understandably confusing to consumers and making such a distinction is also not based on sound science, as is required by law.

In its Proposed Rule, FDA itself acknowledges that “U.S. consensus reports have determined that inadequate evidence exists to support the direct contribution of added sugars to obesity and heart disease,” which makes this proposed change so confusing.

Further, no authoritative scientific body has found a public health need to set an upper level (UL) for “added sugars” intake, including the IOM and the 2010 European Food Safety Authority, a fact that was confirmed by FDA in their own Proposed Rule.

The Sugar Association supports current efforts to advise the American public that fruits, vegetables, whole grain and other fiber and calcium-rich foods should be the centerpieces of their daily diets. We also support dietary guidance that helps Americans to recognize foods or beverages that don’t contribute appreciable nutrients should not be major components of a diet but consumed as treats within caloric needs.

But any regulation should be based on the preponderance of science with consumer education at its core. FDA’s effort to include “added sugars” on the nutrition-facts panel, which lacks a scientific foundation, has the potential to mislead consumers and could have unintended consequences not yet explored. Most importantly, this rule could take us further away from proven interventions to improve the diets and health of the U.S. population.

Learn more about natural sugar and how it differs from other sweeteners here.

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