On March 1, 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.) proposed new guidance related to the pending update to nutrition facts labels. It focused on the definition of dietary fiber and added sugar in products such as maple syrup, honey and some cranberry products.
Why new labeling for total fiber?
Turns out, some food manufacturers add fiber to products, either isolated natural fiber or synthetic fiber, to boost total fiber. These added fibers may or may not have the same health benefits as naturally occurring fiber. So, the F.D.A is now suggesting that added dietary fibers must prove a physiological benefit, like reducing a spike in blood sugar after people consume a food or beverage in order to be included in the total grams of fiber on a nutrition label.
And for added sugars?
“While honey and maple syrup meet the definition of added sugars, we heard concerns from the industry that declaring added sugars on their single-ingredient products may lead consumers to think their pure products—such as a jar of honey or maple syrup—actually contain added table sugar because added sugars are listed on the nutrition facts label,” explained Scott Gottlieb, M.D., commissioner of the F.D.A., to Food Business News. “We also heard from cranberry juice manufacturers that their products need to be sweetened for palatability because cranberries have less natural sugar than other fruits.”
This new proposal would add a † symbol after the added sugars percent daily value information on certain foods. It would lead readers to information outside of the nutrition facts panel for more information. Presumably, single ingredient sweeteners like honey and maple syrup would indicate that, while they are considered “added sugar,” they are pure and contain no added table sugar. Ingredients like dried cranberries and cranberry juice products that are sweetened with added sugars, but contain total sugars at levels no greater than comparable products that are naturally sweet (like 100% apple juice) would also be eligible for the proposed symbol for further explanation to the consumer.
The process of making updates to the nutrition facts label is a long one for many reasons, including parsing out details around added sugar and total fiber. Because of this, large food manufacturers have until January 2020 to comply with the new format and smaller companies have until January 2021. It’s a costly initiative for manufacturers to make updates, so it’s important that all the details are figured out before new labels are designed and update. Ultimately, the F.D.A. doesn’t want labels to be misleading. Their goal is for consumers to make the most informed choices possible when it comes to the foods they eat.