Listing added sugars might add to consumer confusion

by Jeff Gelski
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The Food and Drug Administration's proposed Nutrition Facts Panel features an "added sugars" listing, which may create confusion for consumers, research suggests.

 

WASHINGTON — An “added sugars” listing on the Nutrition Facts Panel might cause consumers to believe food and beverage products have more sugar than they actually do, according to preliminary research released by the International Food Information Council Foundation.

The Food and Drug Administration proposed a mandatory listing of “added sugars” below “sugars” when the agency proposed wholesale changes to the Nutrition Facts Panel in the March 3 issue of the Federal Register. The I.F.I.C. Foundation, based in Washington, included the added sugar research in comments it filed to the F.D.A. on Aug. 1, the last day the agency accepted public comments on the proposed changes.

The I.F.I.C. Foundation commissioned Turner Research Network, a marketing research consulting firm in Dunwoody, Ga., to conduct consumer research in June and July. A national on-line survey involved 1,088 people.

The people were exposed to three Nutrition Facts Panels: the current one with only a “sugars” listing; the one proposed by the F.D.A. with a “sugars” listing and an “added sugars” listing; and one with a “total sugars” listing and an “added sugars” listing.

When asked to give the total amount of sugar in the product after looking at each panel, 92% who viewed the first one with only “sugars” gave the correct answer. The percentages fell to 55% for the one with “sugars” and “added sugars” and 66% for the one with “total sugars” and “added sugars.”

When viewing the “sugars” and “added sugars” Nutrition Facts Panel, 52% said they believed the added sugars are added to the amount in the sugars listing, which is incorrect. When viewing the “total sugars” and “added sugars” Nutrition Facts Panel, 33% said they believed the added sugars was added to the amount in the total sugars listing.

People in the survey also had different interpretations on the meaning of added sugars. Thirty-four per cent believe it means more sugar has been added to the products while 28% think the “added sugars” listing distinguishes between added sugars and sugars that are occurring naturally in the other product ingredients. Another 19% said they did not know the meaning of added sugars.

Added sugars refer to sugars and syrups added to foods during processing or preparation, according to the F.D.A. in the March 3 Federal Register.

The F.D.A. gave four reasons for a mandatory listing of added sugars on the Nutrition Facts Panel: the variability in ingredients used; the need for consumers to have a consistent basis on which to compare products; the need for consumers to identify the presence or absence of added sugars; and the need for consumers to identify the amount of added sugars when they are present in a food.

The F.D.A. acknowledged the mandatory listing of added sugars would need to be accompanied by consumer education.
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