Statement From: Director – Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) Susan T. Mayne Ph.D.
Three years ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced the most comprehensive reform to the Nutrition Facts label since its introduction in 1993. The changes to the label reflect the latest nutritional science available, emphasizing the information that consumers need to make better-informed decisions about their eating habits.
In updating the label, we saw a need to acknowledge that Americans are eating differently than two decades ago when the labeling requirements were first introduced, or even in 2006, when we last updated the label with added information about trans fats. Among other changes, the new label requires that the amount of and percent Daily Value for Added Sugars be declared; the latter of which is based on 50 grams of added sugar per day, or about 12.5 teaspoons, for those consuming 2,000-calories a day. These changes take into account that Americans on average are consuming Added Sugars in amounts that exceed recommended limits.
Last year, we continued this important work with the launch of the agency’s Nutrition Innovation Strategy, which has as one of its hallmarks to empower consumers with information, enabling them to construct diets more consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Today we’re taking another important step with the issuance of a final guidance with the goal of helping consumers better understand the amount of sugar in single-ingredient products like powdered sugar, pure maple syrup and honey.
This final guidance, “Declaration of Added Sugars on Honey, Maple Syrup, and Certain Cranberry Products,” provides clarification for companies that produce single-ingredient sugars and syrups, in addition to those who produce cranberry products. Single-ingredient sugars are intended to be consumed alone or added to foods by consumers, and thus will be an added sugar to the diet when consumed. As companies who produce these products began to look at how they would implement the new label, they raised concerns about how consumers would perceive the Added Sugars declaration on their product labels. Additionally, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, commonly referred to as the “Farm Bill,” stated that Nutrition Facts labels cannot require the declaration of the gram amount of Added Sugars for single-ingredient sugars, honey, agave and syrups, including maple syrup. For maple syrup and honey especially, we heard concerns that consumers might misinterpret the Added Sugars label declaration to mean that manufacturers had added additional sugars to them, such as corn syrup or cane sugar.
After reviewing and considering the comments made to our February 2018 draft guidance, as well as fulfilling the legislative requirement in the 2018 Farm Bill, we are finalizing this guidance in a way that provides consumers with information as to how consumption of these products can be accommodated within the recommendations of the dietary guidelines, while at the same time reducing the potential for consumers to misinterpret single-ingredient sugars and syrups as having additional sugars added to them.
The final guidance issued today explains that for single-ingredient sugars, the Nutrition Facts label will still include a line for Total Sugars with the amount per serving expressed in grams; however, the line below it – which has been reserved for Added Sugars – will only provide a percent Daily Value for Added Sugars. We are exercising enforcement discretion to allow for the use of a “†” symbol immediately following the percent Daily Value declaration for Added Sugars, which leads consumers to a statement that provides information about the gram amount of Added Sugars, as well as information about how that amount of sugar contributes to the percent Daily Value. As an example, for a single-ingredient sugar that provides 10 grams of sugar per serving, manufacturers are encouraged to include a “†” symbol after the percent Daily Value declaration for Added Sugars that refers the consumer to information that reads: ‘One serving adds 10g of sugar to your diet and represents 20% of the Daily Value for Added Sugars.’ Our goal with this final guidance is to help consumers understand that these single-ingredient sugars have no additional sugars added to them, while also conveying how their consumption will contribute to the amount of Added Sugars consumed in a day.
Additionally, the final guidance provides information related to the labeling of Added Sugars on certain cranberry products. Since cranberries are naturally tart and contain very little natural sugar, the manufacturers of these products frequently add sugar to make them more palatable. The makers of these products have stated that even after adding sugar, their products typically have the equivalent total sugar content of other fruit products that do not have sugars added. Therefore, in instances where sugar is added and it does not exceed the level in a comparable fruit product, such as cranberry juice cocktail as compared to unsweetened grape juice, we are stating our intent to exercise enforcement discretion to allow the Nutrition Facts label to include a symbol that leads the consumer to a statement outside the Nutrition Facts label indicating that sugar has been added because cranberries are naturally tart. The statement can also indicate that the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans includes language that there is room for limited amounts of added sugars in the diet, including from nutrient-dense foods like naturally tart fruit. Alternatively, the statement could refer to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended limit for Added Sugars of no more than 10% of calories. Our intent with this additional information is to help American consumers more easily understand how certain sweetened cranberry products can be part of a healthy dietary pattern.
In implementing this final guidance today, we have made sure to allow ample time for manufacturers to comply. Therefore, this guidance states our intent to exercise enforcement discretion so that any single-ingredient sugar or cranberry product that is impacted by this guidance will have until July 1, 2021 to switch to the new label. We want to ensure that manufacturers have time to redesign their packaging and adhere to the new labeling requirements.
In updating the Nutrition Facts label and later releasing the Nutrition Innovation Strategy, the goal has been to provide consumers with the information they need to make informed decisions about their diet and health, including with the products they are eating every day. Other changes that consumers are seeing on the new label include adjusted serving sizes so that the amounts of calories and nutrients listed on the label more accurately reflect what is customarily consumed. Additionally, Americans are seeing a change in which nutrients are declared, as vitamin D and potassium are now required on the label because Americans do not always get the recommended amounts.
The Added Sugars declaration is one more piece of information that consumers can use to make informed decisions about their diet. Our goal in issuing this final guidance is to help consumers better understand how consumption of single-ingredient sugars and certain cranberry products can be accommodated within recommended limits for Added Sugars in healthy diets.
The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.