Washington, DC - Advancing better nutrition is one of my top priorities and implementing the update to the iconic Nutrition Facts label — the first overhaul in 20 years — is a key part of that commitment.
We’re already seeing the new label on many products. This updated label is empowering consumers with accurate and science-based information to help them make more informed, healthier choices. As part of our updates to the Nutrition Facts label, we’ve leveraged the latest information we have on nutritional science with the intent to help reduce the burden of chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
Toward these goals, the final rule to update the Nutrition Facts label includes a listing of “added sugars.” The old label simply listed the total grams of sugar without distinguishing between sugars that are naturally occurring, such as in fruits and vegetables, and sugars that align with the definition of added sugars established by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines for what constitutes added sugars, which inform the development of federal nutrition policies, define added sugars as caloric sweeteners that include, not only sugar, but also honey and maple syrup as well as other sweeteners.
While added sugars can be part of a healthy dietary pattern, the science underlying the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans demonstrates that meeting nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits is difficult when added sugars contribute more than 10 percent of a person’s total daily calories. There’s strong and consistent evidence that healthy dietary patterns characterized, in part, by lower intakes of sweetened foods and beverages, are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
We’ve made it our goal to increase consumer awareness of the quantity of added sugars in food products consistent with recent dietary guideline recommendations. The updated Nutrition Facts Label is an important part of this effort. The new label also contains the new daily value for added sugars, so consumers can better understand how foods with added sugars can fit into a healthy dietary pattern.
While added sugars declared on the updated Nutrition Facts label include sweeteners added to processed foods, they also include foods that are “packaged as such” including a bag of table sugar, jar of honey or container of maple syrup. We recognized that this new labeling information on “packaged as such” products may inadvertently lead consumers to think their pure products, such as a jar of honey or maple syrup, may actually contain added table sugar or corn syrup because there are “added sugars” listed on the label.
That’s why in February 2018, we issued a draft guidance for industry open for public comment that would help clarify the added sugars declaration on the label of pure, single-ingredient “packaged as such” products like maple syrup and honey. This draft guidance was the FDA's initial thinking about ways we can work to help ensure that the updated Nutrition Facts label is helpful to consumers. The guidance advised food manufacturers about our intent to allow the use of an obelisk symbol, “†,” immediately after the added sugars percent daily value information on containers of pure maple syrup or pure honey. This would direct consumers to language that provides information about what “added sugars” actually mean for these specific products. As with any draft guidance, we carefully consider comments submitted to the public docket and feedback from stakeholder meetings and interactions to inform us in issuing our final guidance. In this case, the more than 3,000 comments we received on the draft guidance indicate that there are further opportunities to update our proposed approach. We’re grateful for this feedback. It has helped us identify a solution that we think will more adequately address concerns and provide needed clarity to consumers.
We’re currently drafting our final guidance, which we anticipate issuing by early next year, well in advance of the January 2020 compliance date for larger firms for the updated Nutrition Facts label. This guidance will provide a path forward for pure, single-ingredient “packaged as such” products that does not involve the standard “added sugars” declaration on the Nutrition Facts label. We are not considering changes to the required percent daily value for these products, including for products like pure honey and maple syrup. We believe that such a solution strikes the balance of addressing producer concerns that their products could be perceived as being economically adulterated while still informing consumers on how these products contribute to their daily added sugar intake.
Although we’re continuing to work on a revised approach, I believe that an updated approach will both clarify requirements to successfully implement the Nutrition Facts label and achieve the goal of empowering consumers to use the new label to make informed and healthy dietary choices. Through engaged dialogue and open public comment on our nutritional strategies, I’m committed to finding ways to advance our work in nutrition to improve the lives of all Americans by reducing the burden of preventable illness.