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The FDA approves new nutrition labels to call out sugar in a big way


sugar-donut
Photo: Pixabay

Everyone gets sugar cravings—even Kate Middleton. Knowing some, er, sweet, sugar substitutes is key for keeping the tell-tell signs from appearing all over your face, but wouldn’t it also help to have sugar servings more clearly called out on nutrition labels?

Well yes, and that’s exactly what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration intends to do with its newly approved nutrition label design requirements—which will call out “added sugars” for the first time, it was announced today.

The label changes will go into effect in mid-2018. And coming just a year after the government issued limits on sugar intake for the first time, it seems like Dr. Frank Lipman’s “sugar is the devil” mantra may have made it to DC.

Not only will labels be clearly marked with how much sugar food and beverage manufacturers have added in, it will also show the portion of the daily recommended sugar percentage for the average person (which is limited to 10 percent, based on the latest dietary guidelines). Interestingly, the mock up for the new label does not reflect the new requirement that the sugar percentage be included. Here’s a look at the old vs. the new:

labels-new-resized
Photo: U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Manufacturers also will no longer to be able to get away with listing “evaporated cane juice” (the term many brands have been using to label sweeteners) on the label instead of sugar—due to a final ruling in a case that has been debated since 2009, according to FoodNavigator.

Serving size requirements have also changed to be a better indicator of what people are more likely to eat—so you may get sticker shock if your favorite yogurt has claimed that there were three servings per package (and they display smaller sugar and calorie counts per serving as a result).

Now, in most cases, the serving size will be the size of the whole package—a huge shift considering many companies have worked around that to market their goods as healthier than they really are.

“Imagine the industry fighting the FDA over transparency! This is a win for consumers,” — Laurie David, executive producer, Fed Up

On hand today applauding the move? Our super fit, healthy eating, SoulCycle-loving First Lady, of course.

“Our guiding principle here is simple,” Michelle Obama said after the announcement. “That you as a parent and a consumer should be able to walk into a grocery store, pick an item off the shelf, and tell whether it’s good for your family..You’ll also learn more about where the sugar in the food comes from—like whether the sugar in your yogurt was added during processing or whether it comes from ingredients like fruits.”

Environmental activist and executive producer of Fed UpLaurie David tells Well+Good that the change is a good step in the right direction, but more changes still need to be made: “We need to change grams to teaspoons,” she says. “The sugar/food/beverage industry is fighting that because if people better understood how much sugar is really in their food, they would reconsider making the purchase. Everyone understands how much a teaspoon is. I don’t think you could say the same for grams.”

But she still considers the new guidelines a major victory: “Imagine the industry fighting the FDA over transparency! This is a win for consumers. Now that is a nice change indeed.”

So, a little less detective work for you—but a lot more reality about how much sugar you’re actually eating. (PS: You might want to stock up on omega-3s for a while.)

Having a total freakout moment over sugar? Find out if you’re addicted without even knowing it. But fear not: here’s a whole guide to natural sweeteners