How the NEW Nutrition Label Helps the War on Sugar

We have a new weapon in the war on sugar! 

In the spring of 2016, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that food manufacturers will be required to make changes to their nutrition labels for packaged products.

Here are the new nutrition facts label requirements:

  • Servings Per Container must be displayed at the top of the nutrition label
  • Serving Size must be listed in a larger, bold text
  • Calories Per Serving must be prominently displayed
  • Add a new line for Added Sugars Per Serving

new nutrition label The companies affected by these new requirements officially have until 2018 to comply, but the good news is that many have already begun rolling out the new labels. Consider the shock millions of Americans will experience when they discover the startling amounts of added sugars in each serving from the many products marketed as healthy or “lowfat.” (For me, the first category that comes to mind are fruit juices – but that is for another blog!)

More than 1 out of every 5 calories in the American diet comes from added sugars. Through the miracle of food technology, food manufacturers use over 60 types of added sugars that can be integrated with other ingredients and those ingredients have appeared on food labels under superficial names like maltol, panocha and fruit juice.[i]

The new line on the nutrition label defining added sugars gives us more control to properly manage overall consumption of sugar in our diet. 

Recommended amounts vary by age and gender, but on average, men should not consume more than nine teaspoons of sugar daily, and women should limit their daily intake to six teaspoons.

Other new label requirements include:

  • A footnote that explains Percentage Daily Value 
    • The PDV is based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so consumers can adjust if their daily goal is 1,500.
  • Adjusted serving sizes that more closely reflect the modern appetite (the old standard was set in the early 90s)
    • As an example, the new labels will show an increase from 1/2 cup of ice cream to 2/3 cup, and from 8 ounces of soda to 12 ounces.
    • If a product consists of two or more servings, the brand owner must list two columns: data for the recommended serving and data for the complete package[ii]

While many manufacturers have already updated their nutrition labels in compliance with FDA guidelines, the new developments were met by opposition.
This came primarily from the big players, especially with regard to the new line item on added sugars. One cereal group contended that natural and added sugars have the same impact on health. The Sugar Association stated publicly that the new line item is not grounded in science!

For anyone who has followed our War on Sugar blogs, or have taken the time to read The Case Against Sugar by science writer Gary Taubes, we know that these two arguments – to be kind – are silly.

  1. Added sugars are not created equally, and were introduced by food manufacturers to enhance more flavor – more sweetness – to their products that compel consumers to buy more. Added sugars are powerfully addictive, and people don’t get type 2 diabetes from eating too much fruit.
  2. The staggering rise in cases of type 2 diabetes since added sugars became a fixture in the American diet is all the science we need to know. Type 2 was virtually non-existent before the industrial revolution made confectionaries and other products with added sugars more accessible to consumers during the mid-nineteenth century.

For further proof, one need only to look at the Pima Indians in Arizona, who experienced high rates of type 2 diabetes back in the early years of the 20th century when reservation life was limited to an Americanized diet.

The new nutrition labels are a huge breakthrough in the war against added sugars ... but it can only become an effective weapon if we are raising awareness.  Tell everyone you know – family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, customers and anyone you meet for the first time. 

These new mandates, especially the added sugar line item, could force food companies to manufacture healthier products, especially if we are voting with our wallets.

Read more about the War on Sugar! 



Sean Browne

Sean Browne

Former Chief Revenue Officer, CCS Medical

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