UPDATED June 20, 2018
In response to more than 3000 comments from the maple and honey industries, the FDA is reconsidering whether it will require producers of pure maple syrup and pure honey to break out “added sugars” on their nutrition panels.
While the FDA’s intent was to improve clarity on packaging regarding a product’s addition of sugars to a consumer’s diet, the FDA recognizes that the rule as drafted may confuse rather than enlighten consumers. Industry representatives and producers expressed their concerns that declaring “added sugars” on nutrition labels of pure products might lead consumers to believe such products are “economically adulterated,” that is, that the producer added some less-expensive ingredient such as high-fructose corn syrup to a premium-price product. The FDA had attempted to avoid this confusion by allowing a dagger or obelisk symbol immediately after the “added sugars” disclosure directing consumers to “contextual” information below the panel stating that the sugars in the product are naturally occurring, but most agree that the additional information would likely confuse consumers further. Said the FDA:
The feedback that FDA has received is that the approach laid out in the draft guidance does not provide the clarity that the FDA intended. It is important to FDA that consumers are able to effectively use the new Nutrition Facts label to make informed, healthy dietary choices. The agency looks forward to working with stakeholders to devise a sensible solution.
To see the FDA’s statement on the matter, click here.
Yes, pure Vermont maple syrup . . . the amber liquid that comes straight from the tree through tubes or sap buckets into the evaporator, through some filters and into a familiar beige jug or glass leaf with nothing added but heat and steam and very hard work . . . may soon require a label that states it contains “Added Sugars.”
The same will apply to a jar of pure honey. Or a bag of sugar. Let me repeat that. A BAG of SUGAR.
If you’ve just buried your face in your hands like the mouse on my earlier post, you’re not alone. But I never promised you the world of regulations would always make sense. So what’s the deal here?
In response at least in part to the 2010 and 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which advocates that nutrition professionals and policymakers press Americans to limit calories from added sugars, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revamped its nutrition label requirements which will require, among other things, a change from the familiar “Sugars” to “Total Sugars” and an additional line below it to read “Added Sugars.” The new labels will look like this. The current label is on the left, the new label on the right:
Now. The FDA defines “Added Sugars” as:
“. . . sugars that are either added during the processing of foods, or are packaged as such, and include sugars (free, mono- and disaccharides), sugars from syrups and honey, and sugars from concentrated fruit or vegetable juices that are in excess of what would be expected from the same volume of 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice of the same type. The definition excludes fruit or vegetable juice concentrated from 100 percent fruit juice that is sold to consumers (e.g. frozen 100 percent fruit juice concentrate) as well as some sugars found in fruit and vegetable juices, jellies, jams, preserves, and fruit spreads.”
I don’t understand “or are packaged as such,” either, but the point is, fruit juice and its the naturally-occurring sugars are just sugars, but maple syrup and honey and all their naturally-occurring sugars are “added.”
The International Maple Syrup Institute and the National Honey Board have each advised the FDA through a number of letters the reasons why the change would be bad for consumers and bad for the industries. Congressman Peter Welch and Senator Patrick Leahy have joined forces with representatives of the Vermont maple industry to reinforce the message, stating recently that “the labels would misinform consumers and could harm the industry, which does not put additional sugar in its syrup.”
In response to the industries’ opposition, the FDA issued a draft guidance last February that proposed a confounding solution: honey and maple syrup producers can add a footnote dagger (†) to the nutrition label and below it, a footnote to read something like “† All these sugars are naturally occurring in [honey/maple syrup].” So, under the rule as proposed, honey and maple producers have to identify added sugars that are not added, but may then add a footnote to inform the consumer that the sugars are, in fact, naturally-occurring and not added.
You can read about the new nutrition labels here. And by the way, the deadline for compliance with the new label requirements was originally July 26, 2018, but it has been extended to January 1, 2020 for big companies (sales >$10MM) and 2021 for everyone else.