Sugar Association files citizens’ petition asking the FDA for “complete and accurate labeling” of low-calorie and non-calorie sweeteners

For example, when packaged foods contain non-nutritious sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharin, acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), neotame, sucralose, steviol glycosides (stevia) and Lou Han Guo ( monk fruit), the name of the ingredient will be followed by the word (sweetener). to clearly alert consumers to the presence of unknown sweeteners.

“We have identified a significant gap in the transparency of food labeling and are calling on the FDA to take action. These actions taken as a whole represent an overhaul of the labeling of sweeteners ”,Courtney Gaine, PhD, RD, president and CEO of the Sugar Association, said during a live webinar yesterday.

the petitionRequests that children’s foods and beverages indicate the type and amount of non-nutritive sweeteners, in milligrams per serving, on the front of food packages. In addition, the Sugar Association is also asking products making a sugar claim (i.e. no / low / reduced sugar) to require disclosure, “Sweetened by [name of Sweetener(s)]” under the claim.

The petition also includes a request for disclosure of the potential gastrointestinal side effects of consuming sugar alcohols and certain sugar substitutes in foods at the lowest effect levels observed.

“These changes are necessary to fill a gap in food labeling, but most importantly, they are necessary to provide consumers with full transparency and accurate information about the content of the products they buy and eat.”Added Dr Gaine.

The FDA has 180 days to respond to the Sugar Association’s petition.

State of Consumer Knowledge of Non-Nutritive Sweeteners

“We all know that added sugars are now mandatory on labels, and as the FDA had hoped, food companies are looking to reduce the use of added sugars in products. This has resulted in what one might call an explosion in the use of low-calorie and non-calorie sweeteners in food and drink products, as well as increased interest in the development of new sweeteners ”,Dr Gaine said.

Over the past four years, the number of products containing at least one non-nutritive sweetener has quadrupled, Dr Gaine said.

“These sweeteners show up in products where consumers wouldn’t normally think they would be, like in children’s products. The problem is that many consumers do not know the names of low calorie and non-calorie sweeteners, so they are not even aware of their presence ”, she says.

A recent consumer survey conducted by Quadrant Strategies (sample size 1,002) for the Sugar Association found that when given a list of food additives, consumers correctly identified sweetening ingredients only 37% of the time. time.

According to the same survey, 66% of consumers said it was important for sugar substitutes to be clearly identified as sweeteners on food labels, and 73% of parents surveyed felt it was important to know the amount of substitutes. sugar in their children’s diets.

Additionally, 70% of consumers believe that products labeled “Reduced Sugar” contain fewer calories than the original product, leading them to believe they are making the healthier choice. However, all too often this is not the case, said Dr Gaine (see example below).

“This new data confirms what we have observed: Consumers are confused about alternative sweeteners and want the industry to do better, and we know we can do better,”Dr Gaine said.

Rachel J. Bradford