Getting The “Sweet” Facts
Were you aware that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was in process of requiring food manufactures to comply with a new and improved Nutrient Fact Label? This was supposed to take effect on July 26, 2018. In fact, many companies recognize consumers want this information and have already moved to put the updated label on their packages. Click here to see a list of varies products that have the updated nutrition label.
The Trump Administration has delayed this major upgrade to the labels. On June 13th, 2017, the FDA issued a statement that it would give companies more time to make the shift. No new deadline was provided. This is unfortunate for consumers, as the new label will make it easier to make informed decisions about the foods we eat.
You may be wondering why the change? Well, it mainly has to deal with the scientific information on diet and health has improved, including the link between diet and risk of chronic diseases. As a dietitian, I couldn’t have been happier for an updated nutrient label. It was much needed.
Key Changes to the Nutrient Fact Label:
- Breaks down sugars into naturally occurring and “added sugars” – those that are added during production with the percentage of daily values (DV) shown. The current label makes no such distinction.
- Modernized the format to highlight calories and serving size information. The current format is in smaller print.
- Serving sizes were updated to reflect the portions people typically consume. An example being that a current pint of ice cream typically shows the serving size as four. The new label will show three servings across the board on pint size ice cream.
These changes may seem small at first glance, but are actually a BIG deal! Let me explain why, in my opinion, one major key change would make a significant difference in our health – for the better of course!
Sweet News – “Added Sugars with daily values DV%”
Currently, on the Nutrition Facts Label, we just see “Total Sugars” and that includes all sugars — both naturally occurring and added during processing. As a consumer, we have no way to decipher between the two. For example, fructose and lactose are natural sugars that can be found in foods such as fruit, plain milk and plain yogurt. Let’s say you buy mixed-berry yogurt and the current label reads 26 grams of sugars. The amount that occurs in the fruit and milk verses how much is added to make the yogurt taste sweeter is anyone’s guess.
Prior to the delay, the FDA required that the new label state the amount of “Added Sugars” which will be listed underneath the “Total Sugars”. Basically, the new label will provide much needed transparency for all of us.
And let’s be honest with ourselves, we all could probably reduce the amount of added sugars in our diet (i.e. syrups, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, invert sugar, maltose, honey, molasses, sucrose‐lactose, maltose sugar, concentrated fruit juice, etc,). Am I right? Do you enjoy soft drinks, fruit drinks, specialty coffee and teas, sport and energy drinks, alcoholic beverages, a slice of cake, scoop of ice-cream with sweet toppings, wedge of pie, candies, jams, or syrup on pancakes? It is OK to say YES. Even I eat foods with added sugars, I do.
On average, Americans get well over 10% of their total calories from added sugars. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, along with other expert groups such as the American Heart Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Institute of Medicine and the World Health Organization all support reducing caloric intake from added sugars. These large health corporations recommend that on average, women consume 24 grams (6 teaspoons), men consume 36 grams (9 teaspoons, and children (depending on weight height) should consume between 12 to 24 grams (3 to 6 teaspoons) of added sugars per day. Children under the age of two should not consume any added sugars.
Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s ok for added sugars to be part of our dietary patterns, we just want to be mindful of excess consumption of added sugars. Most people are unaware of how detrimental sugar is to their health. Research shows an overabundance of added sugars can increase risks of dental carries, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), obesity, type 2-diabetes, heart disease and more. By reducing sugar consumption, you can dramatically improve your health. And the new label will be a big player in helping!
So, you may or may not decide to reduce the consumption of certain foods with added sugars, but that is based on your individual needs or preferences. The bottom line is that these updates to the label will help increase your awareness of the quantity of added sugars in foods and help us consumers make common-sense decisions about our sugar intake.
Please feel free to send me an email if you have any questions about the updated Nutrition Fact Label. Also, if you are interested in providing feedback regarding the compliance dates, please visit the FDA website for more information. Another option would be to voice your opinion with an advocacy group, such as Center For Science and the Public Interest. They have been instrumental in the updates of the food label.
– Kari Martinez, MS, RD, LDN
Health Advisor | Email Kari