The US Food and Drug Administration released the first major update in 20 years to the “Nutrition Facts Labels” of the US. The labels will now include a line devoted to sugar added.
The amount of sugar added and the recommended daily intake will be provided to consumers. The FDA announced the change by stating that “scientific data indicates it is difficult to stay within calorie limitations while meeting nutrient requirements if you consume over 10 percent of calories in added sugar.”
The First Lady Michelle Obama described the updated Nutrition Facts as a “landmark accomplishment.” “Most importantly, this label will let you know how much sugar has been added to your food in processing and how much comes from fruit,” she stated.
This move is in response to a growing body of scientific evidence that links sugar consumption with a variety of health conditions, including obesity and type 2 diabetes. Recent documentaries, such as 2014’s Fed Up, narrated and filmed by Katie Couric of the News, or 2015’s That Sugar Film, have brought the issue to public attention.
The new guidelines will allow added sugars to be listed as a single number rather than a variety of names such as “evaporated juice,” “high fructose corn syrup,” or “evaporated water.” Some analysts believe the increased visibility of sugars will result in a similar shift as what occurred when trans fats were first listed on labels around the mid-2000s.
Brands are paying attention. Sweetener expert John Fry spoke to the trade magazine FoodNavigator USA about the changes that the FDA has proposed to the nutrition facts panel and serving size. Sugar reduction is already an important issue. It is one of the major themes in food processing. “The FDA’s proposal only underscores that consumer concerns about sugar content will not go away.”
Fry stated that brands could use more alternative sweeteners such as stevia or monk fruit. According to QSR, even Coca-Cola has begun (gradually) to move away from added sugars. The company has filed 24 patents related to stevia.
While local governments try to reduce sugar consumption through taxes on soda, the real change will come when consumers become aware of sugar added to common foods and change their eating habits voluntarily. The new labels will not be mandatory until 2018, so brands have plenty of time to prepare strategies that meet the demands of sugar-conscious consumers in the future.