As the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) nears the finish line for issuing its new Nutrition Facts panel guidelines for food products, perhaps the most contested aspect is the proposed addition of added sugars.
This past July, the FDA amended its original proposal, which would require listing the amount of added sugars in grams, to also require listing how much added sugars a food contains relative to a total daily limit—a measure called the percent daily value, or %DV. FDA’s recommended %DV calls for the daily intake of calories from added sugars to not exceed 10% of total calories.
Although these kinds of labeling changes may seem relatively minor, their potential costs are hardly insignificant for food entrepreneurs, small food businesses, restaurants, and national and international manufacturers.
FDA estimates its changes to food labels will impact approximately 60,000 manufacturers and cost the food industry up to $2 billion. For a food entrepreneur or small food business that has several food products, it could mean hundreds to thousands of dollars to create new food labels. For a large food manufacturer with hundreds of food products, it could mean tens of thousands of dollars, maybe more.
Currently, FDA does not have a definition for added sugars. Under its new labeling rules, FDA would define added sugars as “sugars that are either added during the processing of foods or during packaging.” From a formulation perspective, there is no difference between sugars and added sugars, and there is currently no laboratory test that can differentiate between a naturally occurring sugar and an added sugar.
Under the new added sugars rules, added sugars would include sugars, syrups, naturally occurring sugars that are isolated from a whole food and concentrated so that sugar is the primary component, such as fruit juice concentrates, and other caloric sweeteners.
The FDA has proposed allowing six months for the industry to prepare for the changes to the Nutrition Facts panel, and then allowing two years for full compliance. So, food manufacturers need not panic about the added sugars change. But, they also shouldn’t wait until the last minute. A good way to prepare is to establish a working relationship with a reputable food labeling and laboratory testing company. Having a reliable partner will ensure accurate and timely FDA compliance.
Roger Legg, senior chemist
RL Food Testing Laboratory