Sugar industry, others may face pressure from front-of-package labeling

VAIL, Colo. — The upcoming White House Hunger, Nutrition, and Health Conference will likely discuss whether food packages should contain front-of-package labels for certain ingredients, including sugar , Courtney Gaine, president and CEO of The Sugar Association, a trade group focused on nutrition issues, told sugar farmers nationwide at the American Sugar Alliance’s International Sweetener Symposium here on Tuesday.

Gaine said the push for front-of-package labeling is growing because Canada and Mexico have put such labeling into practice. In the past, such labeling could have been considered a trade barrier, but as countries in the northern and southern United States have, the lack of a label could be considered a trade barrier, he said. she declared.

On Thursday, the Center for Science in the Public Interest said it had filed a regulatory petition with the Food and Drug Administration “to use its authority to establish a simple, standardized, evidence-based, and mandatory labeling system on the front of the package for all packaged foods sold in the United States.

“Consumers should be able to tell at a glance if a food or drink is high in added sugars, sodium and saturated fat,” CSPI said in a press release.

CSPI is joined by the SNAP Association of Nutrition Education Administrators and the State Association of Public Health Nutritionists in submitting the petition to the FDA.

CSPI acknowledged that the food industry has piloted its own front-of-package labeling system in the United States, known as the Facts up Front, but said behavioral research shows that this system does not does not influence consumers’ food choices.

“Shopping for healthy foods should be as easy as possible, and front-of-package nutrition labels have been proven to help consumers make better choices,” said CSPI President Peter Lurie, who was associate commissioner of the FDA during Obama. administration.

“Obviously, this is too important to be left to the food industry, whose own efforts in this area are more like marketing than nutrition education.”

The CSPI explained, “Despite decades of public health efforts, people in the United States continue to have generally poor-quality diets and high rates of diet-related chronic diseases. Government survey data shows that Americans generally consume too many calories, added sugars, sodium and saturated fats, and under-consume fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

“Current food labels are confusing and fail to provide important and useful information to consumers. “The FDA can and should take steps to update our food labels, putting essential nutrition information front and center and giving people the tools they need to make healthier choices.” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., in the CSPI statement.

Blumenthal and House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and others have sponsored legislation that would require the FDA to provide consumers with front-of-package nutrition labeling.

DeLauro supports the CSPI petition and urges the FDA to embark on regulatory action in response.

“Times have changed, our shopping habits have changed, and the food industry is constantly changing,” DeLauro said.

“It’s time for food labeling to catch up. Improvements are desperately needed. To help consumers choose healthy products, my colleagues and I introduced the Food Labeling Modernization Act which would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a single, standard system of nutrition labeling on front-of-pack in a timely manner for all food products with nutrition labels. Front-of-package labels are the future and a welcome change that will make consumers more aware of the contents of the foods they buy. »

The CSPI concluded that dozens of countries have already implemented interpretative front-of-package nutrition labeling to supplement their previous nutrition labeling requirements. In 2016, Chile adopted a mandatory nutrient labeling policy requiring octagon-shaped symbols identifying products high in sugars, calories, saturated fat and sodium. After the policy was implemented, the South American nation’s sugar consumption fell by more than 10%, the CSPI said.

Rachel J. Bradford