You may have heard that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed that an “added sugars” line be added to the Nutrition Facts Panel that appears on all foods and beverages. The Nutrition Facts Panel is a helpful and important guide to the nutrients and calories in everyday grocery items. Unfortunately, adding “added sugars” to Nutrition Facts Panel will only confuse consumers.
In a piece on KeepFoodLegal.org, Executive Director Baylen Linnekin, who is also a professor of food and policy law at George Mason University, states, “Use of the term ‘added sugar’ is misleading, as it creates a deceptive health halo around products like orange juice and apple juice, which are high in naturally occurring sugar but contain no added sugar.”
As Linnekin points out, the mandatory Nutrition Facts Panel already requires food and beverage makers to inform consumers exactly how much sugar is in a given serving: “Why stop at mandating added sugar on food labels? Why not added salt, added caffeine, and added allergens like soy and dairy? Why not label for added protein and added carbs.”
Confused? You should be. Sugar is sugar, regardless of its source, and it’s treated the same way by the body whether you add a spoonful of it to your coffee or drink a glass of juice. So why are some groups pushing to list sugar as much as three times on a label, splitting it up between added and intrinsic? That’s only going to mislead consumers about how much sugar is actually in a product.
Food activists are trying to leave the impression that products they don’t like contain far more sugar than they do, Linnekin says. Listing “added sugars” on the Nutrition Facts Panel is not intended to provide consumers with more information; it’s intended to punish companies the activists think should not be in business, he says.
We here at Sip & Savor are in favor of providing consumers with the information they need to make the decisions that are right for them. Companies already clearly display the amount of sugar in their products on the Nutrition Facts Panel, along with the calories (which our member companies also place on the front of every bottle, can and pack they produce), so splitting up the same nutrient into two parts is unnecessary. The FDA claims it wants to provide clarity for consumers, but these proposed changes actually undermine that goal. It’s not just Baylen Linnekin and the beverage industry that have concerns. If you want to read more about why placing “added sugars” on the Nutrition Facts Panel is the wrong approach, check out this Forbes article. And to learn more about why such a change will only lead to consumer confusion, the International Food Information Council (IFIC) shares its public comments on its consumer research.