A.B.A. opposes listing of added sugars

by Jeff Gelski
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WASHINGTON — Lee Sanders, senior vice-president of government relations and public affairs for the American Bakers Association, spoke out against listing added sugars on the Nutrition Facts Panel in a public meeting put on by the Food and Drug Administration June 26 in Washington.

Ms. Sanders said the association also had issues with a proposed fiber definition and with the amount of time for companies to come into compliance with any final rule. The F.D.A. listed proposed changes to the Nutrition Facts Panel in the Federal Register on March 3.

“The proposed rule concedes that there is no chemical difference between naturally-occurring sugars or added sugars, and also, that there is no scientific evidence that added sugars are linked to obesity or other chronic diseases,” Ms. Sanders said.

She also said determining the amount of added sugars in some baked foods will be difficult.

“It would be difficult, if not impossible, to calculate added sugars or track added sugars through recordkeeping, especially for yeast-leavened bakery products in which the fermentation process results in overall sugar reduction,” she said.

The F.D.A. has proposed to define dietary fiber by its physiological effect rather than by its chemical structure, but the F.D.A. has not taken this approach with other nutrients, Ms. Sanders said.

“The proposed definition essentially would exclude all currently added fiber ingredients, even those supported by sound science demonstrating health benefits,” she said.

Instead of a petition process, the F.D.A. should use a notification process or a substantiation approach for adding ingredients to the F.D.A.’s approved dietary fiber list, according to the A.B.A.

Ms. Sanders said the A.B.A. supports proposed mandatory declarations of vitamin D and potassium on the Nutrition Facts Panel. The F.D.A. should provide clarity on rounding rules and, to avoid confusion, not include the per cent Daily Value on the left side of the Nutrition Facts Panel, Ms. Sanders said.

She said the A.B.A. believes trans fat should remain on the Nutrition Facts Panel even if the F.D.A. withdraws the Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) status of partially hydrogenated oils, which produce artificial trans fats.

“If F.D.A. removes the trans fat declaration from the label, then consumers are likely to be very confused, thinking that all trans fats have been removed from foods, even though foods will still contain naturally-occurring sources of trans fat,” Ms. Sanders said.

Most of the F.D.A.’s proposed revisions for the Nutrition Facts Panel are not science-based decisions, she said.

“To improve the proposed rules’ transparency, the agency should seek and provide empirical support for each of the proposed changes,” she said.

The F.D.A. has proposed to give industry, once a final rule is approved, two years to implement new Nutrition Facts Panels on their products. Ms. Sanders said the A.B.A. recommended a longer time period, such as a minimum implementation time of three to five years. She cited a report from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University in Arlington, Va., that said a two-year compliance option would cost $2.3 billion and provide $31.4 billion in benefits. A four-year compliance option would cost $600 million and provide $30.2 billion in benefits, according to the report.

“Thus a four-year compliance date could result in almost a four-fold reduction in cost while only marginally reducing benefits,” she said. “This would also greatly assist small businesses that are most likely to be impacted.”

Ms. Sanders said the A.B.A. plans to provide more detail on its positions in written comments at a later date. The F.D.A. will accept comments on the proposed rule until Aug. 1.
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