Sugar Association asks FDA for labeling of low-calorie sweeteners

The Sugar Association, the scientific voice of the American sugar industry, today filed a citizens’ petition with the Food and Drug Administration asking the agency to require “complete and accurate labeling of low-calorie and non-calorie sweeteners on food packaging ”.

After the FDA included a line of “added sugars” when revamping the Nutrition Facts label, there was “an explosion” of food companies switching from high-calorie sweeteners to low-calorie, low-calorie sweeteners said Courtney Gaine, President and CEO of the Sugar Association. . These sweeteners are listed as ingredients, but it’s difficult for consumers to understand what role they play in food, she added.

According to the proposal, “when packaged foods contain sweeteners not disclosed on the Nutrition Facts label, including, but not limited to, aspartame, saccharin, acesulfame potassium (Ace-K) , neotame, sucralose, steviol glycosides (Stevia) and Lou Han Guo (Monk fruit), the name of the ingredient would be followed by the word (sweetener).

The FDA should have required labeling of low-calorie, zero-calorie sweeteners when it revised the Nutrition Facts label, Gaine added.

“It’s a natural extension of the Nutrition Facts label redesign,” Gaine said. “We see this as an oversight by the FDA. “

The petition calls on the FDA to require the following food labeling changes by issuing official industry guidelines supported by the agency’s enforcement discretion:

• Add the term “Sweetener” in parentheses after the name of all non-nutritive sweeteners in the ingredient list.

• For children’s foods and beverages, list the type and amount of non-nutritive sweeteners, in milligrams per serving, on the front of food packages.

• For products making a sugar claim (ie no / low / reduced sugar), require the disclosure “Sweetened with (name of sweetener (s))” under the claim.

• Disclose the potential gastrointestinal side effects of consuming sugar alcohols and certain sugar substitutes in foods at the lowest effect levels observed.

• Make sure that all sugar content claims related to sugar and sugar substitutes are true and not misleading.

Additionally, the petition calls on the FDA to require children’s products made with non-nutritive sweeteners to disclose – on the front of the packages – the type and amount of sweeteners used. This request is supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics’ November 2019 policy statement, The Use of Non-Nutritive Sweeteners in Children, and is necessary to assess children’s exposure to alternative sweeteners – something that is currently unknown, ”the association said.

Likewise, the petition requests that products with sugar content claims require the words “Sweetened with (name of sweetener (s))” under the claim. “The need for this action is critical due to the increased use of sugar substitutes and the sharp rise in misleading” No Sugar Added “,” Zero Sugar “and” Reduced Sugar “claims on food packaging, in part to because of the new mandatory FDA labeling of added sugars on the Nutrition Facts panel, ”Gaine said.

The petition also calls on the FDA to use its discretion to require “No fewer calories” disclosure for the use of “No added / reduced sugar” claims on food labels when the product does not contain 25 % less calories than the food product it is compared to. “Seventy percent of consumers believe that products labeled ‘Reduced Sugar’ contain fewer calories than the original product,” Gaine said, noting that some products are actually more caloric after the ingredient change.

Gaine said consumer research shows consumers identify sweetening ingredients in food additives only 37% of the time, 73% of parents think it is important to know the amount of sugar substitutes in their children’s food. and that 66% of consumers say it is important that sugar substitutes be clearly identified as sweeteners on food labels.

Gaine, who represents sugar beet and cane growers, processors and refiners, said she had not presented the petition to any food manufacturer or trade group.

Gaine said the Sugar Association will also launch a campaign for sweetener transparency on social media over the next six months.

The FDA must respond to a citizens’ petition in six months, but Gaine noted that action on a petition sometimes takes years.

Read the Sugar Association’s petition at ??

Rachel J. Bradford