FDA suggests including daily value for added sugars on nutrition labels

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | C&G Newspapers | Published August 6, 2015


METRO DETROIT — Nutrition facts labels may receive a face-lift in the future.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed July 24 that food companies include the percentage of the daily value for added sugars on labels of packaged food. The proposal comes after the FDA recommended March 3, 2014, that added sugars, in addition to the sugar content, be displayed separately on labels.

The FDA has also proposed that serving sizes and calories be in larger print, percentages of daily values be before the nutrition facts, and a new footnote be clearly written so consumers understand the percentage of daily values concept.

Susan Mayne, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said in a press release that the FDA has a responsibility to provide consumers with information needed to make informed dietary decisions.

“For the past decade, consumers have been advised to reduce their intake of added sugars, and the proposed percent daily value for added sugars on the nutrition facts label is intended to help consumers follow that advice,” Mayne said in a press release.

The daily value percentage indicates how much a nutrient in a serving of food adds to a daily diet of 2,000 calories. Currently, the nutritional label requires that daily value percentages be listed for total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, dietary fiber, calcium and iron.

On average, 13.4 percent of calories consumed per day, or about 268 calories, come from added sugar in Americans’ diets, according to Bethany Thayer, a registered dietitian and director of the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention with Henry Ford Health System. The daily value recommended would be based on added sugars not exceeding 10 percent of a person’s daily calories.

While sugar can be part of a person’s diet, staying below 10 percent of the recommended daily value is hard to do because sugar is added to a variety of foods, Thayer said.

“Seeing that percentage gives (people) a better picture of how much sugar was really in that product,” Thayer said.

Less than 10 percent of the daily value would equate to 50 grams of added sugar for people ages 4 and older, and 25 grams for children ages 1-3, Thayer said. If a person were to drink a pop that has 65 grams of sugar, that one drink is going to have more than 100 percent of the daily sugar, she added.

Sugar naturally occurs in foods like fruit and milk, and those foods have added nutrition and shouldn’t be avoided, Thayer said. But added sugars are simply empty calories.

“Again, it’s not that we can’t have sugar in our diet. It’s just that depending on the dietary pattern you’re following, consuming more than 9 percent to 10 percent of your calories from added sugar is really going to contribute to obesity rather than nutrition,” Thayer said. Research has indicated a correlation between added sugars and obesity, cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.

Dr. Joel Kahn, a preventative and interventional cardiologist at Beaumont Hospital, said the proposed label change is “wonderful.” In the past five years, multiple studies have been published that indicate that the more added sugar consumed, the more likely a person will develop heart disease. While the studies “don’t prove the connection, they just make the case,” he added.

“We’re getting way too much sugar. But now, for the first time, we’re connecting it to the association of increased risk of developing heart disease,” Kahn said.

A small subset of the population reads nutrition labels, and providing this information will help people make informed decisions, he said. However, Kahn added that he doesn’t think it will be the deciding factor in what the average American consumes.

“We’ve got hospitals celebrating summertime by feeding employees free ice cream and free hot dogs. We need better examples to educate people throughout the system. This single move will be a very small effort of a very complex piece to move nutrition ahead. Baby steps are better than no steps,” Kahn said.

Michael Koch, vice president of manufacturing for Clinton Township-based Sanders Candy, said he is not sure if the confectionery industry would see a decline in sales from the proposed nutritional labels, but he is concerned that the labels will confuse consumers by breaking down the added sugars.

“If you have something that has, say, a fruit in it that has a natural sugar, you’re going to have sugar listed on there twice, and as a consumer — because, as consumers, we haven’t been educated in what added sugars mean — people are going to think all of a sudden manufacturers are adding more sugar to products than they used to,” said Koch, who is also on the National Confectioners Association’s board of directors. 

In the confectionary field, studies have been done that indicate the average person consumes 1.2 teaspoons of added sugar per day from a confectionary product, Koch said.

“We encourage moderation. I think consumers are probably going to still buy it because it’s life’s little pleasures,” Koch said. “Consumers that enjoy that kind of treat, I don’t think it’s going to dissuade them from purchasing it.”

The FDA will accept public comment on the proposal for 75 days from the announcement. After the deadline, the agency will review comments before issuing a final ruling. The agency is currently reviewing comments from the March 2014 proposal.

To comment on the proposed changes to the nutrition facts label, visit www.fda.gov.