When you look on the nutrition label of any food, you'll see a line for sugars. It will tell you how many grams of sugar is in a product. For most people, that's not helpful information. It doesn't tell you if those sugars are naturally occurring or from added sugars. It doesn't tell you what percentage of the recommended daily value the sugar is because there is no recommended daily value — at least not yet.
In fact, since most Americans don't have a good understanding of what a gram of sugar looks like, it's difficult to determine if the 24 grams of sugar that a snack pack of apple sauce contains is a reasonable amount or not. That 24 grams is the equivalent of 6 teaspoons of table sugar. When visualized like that, it doesn't seem like a reasonable amount, does it?
To help chip away at this problem, the FDA has proposed changes to the nutrition label. One change suggested earlier this year is to label added sugars so consumers can differentiate between products that naturally have sugar in them and those that have added sugar. That would give consumers more information but it still leaves them in the dark about whether the amount of added sugars is high or not.
Late last week, the FDA announced a supplement to that proposal that would include a daily value for added sugars. This is surprising because there has been no official daily value for any sugar until now. However, based on scientific evidence that "showed that it is difficult to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie requirements if one exceeds 10 percent of total calories from added sugar," the FDA determined there was evidence to support adding a daily value for added sugars on nutrition labels.
The FDA's percent daily value (%DV) on nutrition labels is based on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, which means that no more than 200 of those calories should come from added sugars. Food Politics' Marion Nestle points out that this is "50 grams, or 12 teaspoons, the amount in one 16-ounce soda."
Consider the nutrition label of a 16-ounce soda, which instead of simply noting that the soda has 50 grams of sugar in it, also noted that those were added sugars and they were 100 percent of the recommended daily value. That's like saying, "Drink this soda, and you're done with added sugar for the day." That's powerful information. Not everyone will care about the information, but they'll still have it.
I think it's important that our government provide information that helps people make informed decisions — and so does the FDA.
“The FDA has a responsibility to give consumers the information they need to make informed dietary decisions for themselves and their families,” said Susan Mayne, Ph.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “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.”
This is not a done deal. The FDA has only proposed adding this information. The agency has opened the subject for public comment for 75 days, as it does with many proposals. Anyone can read the proposed changes to the nutrition facts label and submit comments.
I think the FDA deserves kudos for proposing this addition to the nutrition label. It doesn't limit anyone's ability to eat or drink what they want, but it does give us all one more tool to make more informed decisions about what we eat and drink.
Related on MNN:
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- 8 surprising sources of refined sugar
- Sugar nutrition facts: Is sugar really evil or do we just eat too much of it?