John Oliver’s dismantling of the sugar industry is perfect

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As Halloween approaches this week, John Oliver used the holiday as a transition to a hard-hitting commentary last night on the troubling practices of the US sugar industry. The bottom line is that sickening amounts of sugar are hardly something we only find in candy corn, tootsie rolls, and lollipops today. Rather, dollops of this product can be found in everything from fruit drinks to salad dressings, cereals, crackers and ketchup. And, more worryingly, regulators aren’t doing enough to help everyone understand how much sugar they’re pumping into their bodies. “We have no idea how prevalent sugar is in almost everything we eat,” he said.

Oliver, for example, uses Clamato juice, most famous for its use in cocktails. It’s not something anyone would associate with sweetness, yet one serving contains 11 grams of sugar. And the examples are everywhere – Mother Jones, for example, chronicled a number of surprisingly sweet foods last year, including Subway sandwiches, Luna granola bars, Yoplait yogurt and California Pizza Kitchen salads. . Flavor enhancement techniques have long relied on increases in sugar to make foods more palatable.

The FDA, for its part, has proposed a new nutrition label that will better communicate the amount of “added sugar,” that is, the amount of sugar in a given food that was not in the food before. its production and packaging. But the proposal, which was first put on the table earlier this year, has been met with fierce opposition from the cash-rich sugar industry. “Being forced to reveal how much sugar you add to people’s food might seem sweet enough, but there’s no way the food industry is letting that happen,” Oliver said.

A letter written last month on behalf of the American Bakers Association, American Beverage Association, American Frozen Foods Institute, Corn Refiners Association, International Dairy Foods Association and National Confectioners Association asks the FDA to reconsider the proposed change. At a public meeting earlier this summer, a representative from the American Frozen Food Institute said he thought “some aspects of the proposal lacked merit, particularly the addition of added sugar.” Andrew Briscoe, president of the Sugar Association, also expressed similar reluctance about the additional labeling. “There is no preponderance of evidence to warrant an added sugar label,” he told the meeting.

However, even the FDA can’t escape Oliver’s criticism. Part of the problem, he says, is how the industry communicates sugar content. The industry currently advertises sugar content in grams, but few people know exactly what a gram is. “The only reason people drink [The American Beverage Association] want sugar measured in grams instead of teaspoons is that people understand what a teaspoon is,” Oliver said. “No one understands the metric system, so this proposed FDA food label completely misses the point. If they really want us to understand the amount of sugar in our food, they need to find a measurement that we can immediately grasp.”

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