Cap on Sugar Recommendations Gets Mixed Reviews

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently proposed guidelines that would put a limit on the daily recommended amount of added sugar that Americans consume. The agency is recommending that Americans limit the amount of added sugar to no more than 10 percent of their daily calories — the equivalent of about 50 grams of added sugar.

Even foods that are considered healthy such as whole grain breads, granola, canned fruits and low-fat yogurt contain added sugar. Dr. Frank Hu, Harvard professor and member of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, said, “There is a lot of hidden sugar in our food supply, and it’s not just in sweets.”

The FDA is recommending a change in nutrition labels to more accurately reflect the amount of sugar in products. Currently, nutrition labels indicate the total amount of sugar, but the FDA’s proposed change would help consumers distinguish between the amount of naturally-occurring and added sugars in products.

Food industry critics say the proposed label changes will only confuse consumers. A study published in the November 2015 issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that when products listed “added sugars,” consumers overestimated the amount of sugar and were less likely to purchase those products. Kris Sollid, director of nutrients communications with the International Food Information Council and one of the study’s authors, said, “Metabolically speaking, our bodies don’t differentiate between added and natural sugars,” and that total calories are more important for people when watching their weight.

The FDA’s recommendation is in line with other organizations’ proposed sugar intake guidelines. The World Health Organization recommends people consume no more than 10 percent of daily calories from sugar and encourages people to aim even lower. The American Heart Association also advises consumers to limit their daily amount of sugar.

In a statement to the FDA, The Sugar Association said, “FDA has not provided the scientific evidence to uphold its own statutory requirement that ‘added sugars’ labeling and a DRV for ‘added sugars’ is ‘necessary to assist consumers in maintaining healthy dietary practices.’” An article at USAgNet says that the “FDA’s own consumer research shows that should the Agency move forward with its “added sugars” labeling proposal it will mislead and confuse consumers.”

CCFI’s consumer trust research shows that while consumer acceptance of scientific evidence can be challenging, making it relevant and meaningful to consumers helps bring balance to conversations on complex and controversial food issues and ultimately helps consumers make more informed decisions about food. With conflicting scientific views on food issues, the challenge becomes even greater.

A way that food system stakeholders can help consumers feel good about their food choices is through greater transparency. CCFI’s 2015 consumer trust research will focus on how transparency relates to building trust around policies, practices, performance, verification and illustration. The results can be used by food system stakeholders to develop transparency strategies that will increase trust in their products, their processes and their brands. The survey findings will be summarized at the 2015 Food Integrity Summit in November.