Added Sugars

The new regulations released in 2016 set many additional labeling requirements for food manufacturers.  One of the biggest changes was the “added sugars” requirement now on the Nutrition Facts Panel.  The guidelines suggest that Americans should get 10% or less of their calories from added sugar, currently Americans are averaging 13%.  A majority of the added sugars in today’s diet comes from sugary soft drinks, sports/energy drinks, desserts, and sweet treats.

Over the years many have stated (including the WHO, American Heart Association, and IOM) that added sugar creates a challenge for the consumer to meet all nutritional needs while staying within caloric limits. If you consume more than 10% of your calories from added sugars, you are most often consuming food that is not nutrient dense but just high in calories. Based on research and increased concern for the quality of food on the market the new updates to the label according to the FDA will allow for more consumer awareness on what is in food exactly when it comes to sugar.

The old regulations only had a line on the Nutrition Facts Panel for “Sugars”, which combined both added sugar and naturally occurring sugar. Now there is a line for “Total Sugars” and indented underneath there is a line “Includes X g of Added Sugars”. Interestingly enough current laboratory testing cannot determine added sugar contents of food because natural and added are not chemically different.

So how does this ruling impact manufacturers today?

This inability to currently “analytically test” for added sugars is why the FDA has created a definition for what is considered added sugar and how manufacturers must record and keep track of what is in their products.

  • Added Sugar Definition:
    • Sugars (Free Mono- and Disaccharides)
    • Sugars from honey and syrups
    • Sugars coming from concentrated fruit and vegetable juices that are in excess of what is expected in 100% of the respected juice
    • It is important to note that naturally occurring sugars are found naturally in food such as fruit (fructose) and milk (lactose), honey although a natural sugar is added to food as a sweetener so that is considered an added sugar
  • The rounding rules for added sugar are as follows:
    • >1 g – Rounded to the nearest whole gram
    • <1g- “less than 1 g”<0.5g- may be expressed as 0
    • If the product has <1 gram of added sugar and there are no claims about sweeteners, sugar content, added sugars, or sugar alcohol then the “added sugars” statement is not required, but the statement “Not a significant source of added sugars” is to be placed at the bottom of the table of nutrient values in the same type size.
  • Daily Value of Added Sugars:  50 grams (10% of total recommended calorie intake)

No matter if a food contains mixtures of the types of sugars (added/natural) or just added sugars alone that are subject to non-enzymatic browning and/or fermentation there must be diligent records maintained for at least 2 years once a food has been introduced to the marketplace. Over the years the Nutrition Facts Panel has been the common place consumers look when making informed food decisions so the new addition of added sugars is to continue to help consumers understand what is in their food and make health conscious decisions for their lifestyles.

The final ruling with these changes came into effect July 26, 2016.  Manufacturers with over $10 million in sales annually have till July 26, 2018, those with under $10 million annually have till 2019 to meet compliance.