The One Label That Can Tell You What You Need to Know

It’s being fought tooth and nail, but the US Food and Drug Administration is considering adding one line to labels on packaged foods telling you how many teaspoons of sugar have been added to the product. It’s something you’d like to know, right?

So why are food manufacturers lobbying so hard against it? It looks like there might be a LOT more sugar in our foods than we realize.

The plan unveiled by First Lady Michelle Obama last year caused an immediate uproar among US manufacturers, and even spurred international complaint, with the Australian government warming that the new labeling could violate international trade agreements.

One of the loudest arguments against the labeling proposal is that the total amount of sugar in a product is already disclosed. That total includes the sugars that are found naturally in a product as well as those that have been added, and some argue that sugar is sugar, so why is more information needed?

Our nation’s obesity and diabetes epidemics point to a reason for more disclosure say scientists and health groups. The new label is an effort toward greater transparency.

More sugar can mean less nutritive value. “Sugar that the companies put in, whether it’s corn syrup, table sugar, maple syrup, is nutrition­ally void. Period,” said Marion ­Nestle, a professor of nutrition at New York University, in a Washington Post article on the proposed labeling.

“Consumers already have the information they need to make healthy dietary choices,” said the Dairy Institute of California in a written objection to the proposal.

The cranberry industry shouted some of the loudest complaints, joined by a chorus of those representing familiar names in the grocery aisles: The Campbell Soup Company, Kellogg Company, Dannon, Coca-Cola and the Roman Meal Company.

Proponents of the labeling are showing otherwise. As reported in the Los Angeles Times last month, “When the Environmental Working Group analyzed 80,000 food products, it found that 58% had extra sugar added. That included even most deli meats on supermarket shelves.”

The labeling would make it easier to determine the amount of added sugar consumers are getting. For example, the American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than about 6 teaspoons of added sugars daily. But how many teaspoons are in that bottle of cranberry juice? The proposed labeling aims to address just that.

Learn more about the proposal on the FDA website.

The public comment period has closed, and we look forward to learning what the outcome is. We think the labeling would be a positive move toward a healthier nation.

 

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