WASHINGTON — Groups from the baked foods, beverage, dairy and confectionery industries all oppose a proposed Food and Drug Administration plan to study how consumers would respond to the listing of “added sugars” on the Nutrition Facts Panel. In comments sent to the F.D.A., many of the groups focused on potential consumer confusion and how the F.D.A. legally may not be able to find the amount of added sugars in foods and beverages.
The F.D.A. in the May 31 Federal Register said it planned to explore consumer responses to various food label formats, including the listing of added sugars, for the footnote area of the Nutrition Facts Panel.
The American Bakers Association, the Independent Bakers Association, the American Beverage Association, the International Dairy Foods Association, the National Dairy Council, the National Milk Producers Federation, the National Confectioners Association, Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc. and the Sugar Association all sent comments opposing the study.
The American Bakers Association, Washington, said, “A.B.A. believes strongly that F.D.A. should only conduct consumer research experiments around nutrition labeling for those nutrition labeling declarations that F.D.A. lawfully could require or permit. Therefore the proposal does not have practical utility based on the current regulatory framework.”
The American Bakers Association said available chemical analysis is unable to differentiate between naturally occurring sugars and added sugars in food. For the F.D.A. to differentiate between naturally occurring sugars and added sugars, it would need to access company formulation records. However, the F.D.A. does not have the authority to access formulation records for the purpose of nutrition labeling enforcement.
Both the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Washington, and the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., support the proposed study. In their comments they urged the F.D.A. to require manufacturers to confidentially submit food recipes to determine the amount of added sugar.
“There are laws that protect the proprietary information and keep it from the public,” the C.S.P.I. said.
The American Heart Association, Dallas, also supports the proposed F.D.A. study. The A.H.A. recommends women eat no more than 100 calories of added sugars per day and men eat no more than 150 calories of added sugars per day.
“Added sugars now contribute an average of 16% of the total calories in the American diet,” the A.H.A. said in reference to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010. “This is particularly concerning since added sugars are generally devoid of any nutrient value. Rather, added sugars are a significant source of extra or empty calories, which contributes to the growing obesity epidemic.”
Consumers’ lack of understanding of the term “added sugars” was another point brought up by the food and beverage groups.
The National Milk Producers Federation, Arlington, Va., in its comments said a universal definition of “added sugars” is needed.
“The lack of a Daily Value for sugars or ‘added sugars,’ as well as the lack of a universal definition for ‘added sugars,’ will only lead to consumer confusion and have little practical utility,” the federation said.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 defines “added sugars” as “sugars, syrups and other caloric sweeteners that are added to foods during processing, preparation or consumed separately. Added sugars do not include naturally occurring sugars such as those in fruit or milk.”
Several food and beverage groups pointed out the body does not distinguish between added sugars and naturally occurring sugars, according to the government’s Nutrition Labeling and Education Act.
Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc., Lakeville-Middleboro, Mass., said in its comments, “The human body does not metabolize added sugar from natural sources such as honey, cane sugar or beet sugar differently from naturally occurring sugar, and both sources of sugar contribute 4 calories per gram, regardless of source.”
The company said listing added sugars on the Nutrition Facts Panel “only helps propagate the myth that naturally occurring sugar is superior and is treated differently in the body from natural sugars which have been added.”
Both the American Bakers Association and the National Confectioners Association, Washington, said processing may change the amount of added sugars.
“The amount of added sugars in a finished food product cannot be accurately calculated from the formula due to the degradation of sugars during heating and processing,” the National Confectioners Association said. “Sugars in foods undergo chemical changes during processing.”
The association gave such examples as Maillard browning and caramelization.
The American Bakers Association said overall sugar levels change from the formulation in raw dough or batter to the level in the final product because of the fermentation process usage of sugar and additional chemical reactions in the baking process.
Food and beverage groups also said focusing on added sugars contradicts the findings of the F.D.A.
Obesity Working Group “Calories Count” report and that an Institute of Medicine report on energy and macronutrients recognized there is no “clear and consistent” association between increased intake of added sugars and body mass index.