A coalition of 14 public health organizations is calling on the Food and Drug Administration to require that food labels provide full information on added sugars.  

The coalition explained in a letter  to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg that more consumers are trying to make better, informed choices about the foods they eat and that FDA has the ability to provide consumers with the informational tools to make smarter decisions.

The letter noted that “[w]hile current regulations stipulate what foods can be labeled ‘No Sugar Added’ or use a similar phrase, there is currently no requirement that added sugars be shown separately on the ‘Ingredients List.’ ”  

The coalition recommends that FDA require any “added sugars” to be listed in the ingredients section as a single food ingredient with a parenthetical list of the specific ingredients that account for those sugars.  In line with the rules for labeling ingredients, the specific added sugars would be listed by descending weight and the combined weight of the added sugars will be used to determine where the “added sugars” ingredient will be ranked in the ingredient list.

Americans consume significantly more added sugar than is recommended.  The American Heart Association, which signed the letter, notes that the usual intake of added sugars for Americans is 22.2 teaspoons a day.  At first glance that may not sound like a lot of added sugar, but 22.2 teaspoons of sugar is the equivalent of 355 calories; the recommended daily limit of added sugars for women is 100 calories and 150 for men.

The connection between sugar intake and the obesity epidemic is also of concern to this coalition.  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 33 percent of adults and approximately 17 percent of children and adolescents are obese.

Likely anticipating a response from the sugar and food industry that the burden should fall on the consumer to stay informed to make these decisions rather than impose more government regulation, the coalition stated:  “Without specific information on the amount of ‘added sugars’ on the labels of food products, consumers can hardly exercise that responsibility and make smarter choices in the grocery aisle.”

The 14 coalition members are: Environmental Working Group, American Association for Health Education, American Heart Association, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Corporate Accountability International, Defeat Diabetes Foundation, American Association for Health Education, National Association of School Nurses, Young People’s Healthy Heart at Mercy Hospital, Indiana Rural Health Association, American Society of Bariatric Physicians, The FGE Food & Nutrition Team, Cambridge/Somerville WIC, and Iowa Public Health Association.