Editorial: FDA promises to rewrite ‘added sugars’ labels

The Food and Drug Administration will take another look at how a label might provide valuable nutritional information without giving consumers false impressions.

Published on June 28, 2018 8:20AM

Maple syrup makers complain a pending Food and Drug Administration labeling requirement will mislead consumers into thinking sugar is added to the natural sugars in maple syrup.

Capital Press

Maple syrup makers complain a pending Food and Drug Administration labeling requirement will mislead consumers into thinking sugar is added to the natural sugars in maple syrup.


The Food and Drug Administration is taking another look at proposed nutritional labeling rules after a hue and cry from honey, maple syrup and cranberry producers.

It’s a good thing, too.

At issue is a proposal that would require certain foods to include the wording “added sugars” on their labels.

Beginning in 2020, pure honey and maple syrup nutrition labels must have the word “added” in front of “sugar.” Producers and trade groups complained that customers will naturally think another sweetener is added to the natural sugars in honey and maple syrup.

That had us scratching our heads, too.

Pure honey and maple syrup are sugar — fructose and glucose, and sucrose respectively — and have none added to enhance their sweetness.

In the typically tortured English employed by bureaucrats, “added sugars” in this case was meant to imply that adding these products to other foodstuffs or consuming them on their own will add sugar to your diet. According to the FDA, unlike a piece of fruit or other naturally sweet food, honey and maple syrup are not “nutrient rich” foods.

The FDA at first tried to “clarify” the rule by suggesting footnotes on labels stating that the “added sugars” are natural.

Washington state beekeeper Tim Hiatt, a honey producer, called the labeling requirement, even qualified by a footnote, “crazy.”

“It shouldn’t say ‘added sugars’ at all,” he said. “The only ingredient in honey is honey.

“The whole industry is up in arms about this,” Hiatt said. “We’re struggling in the industry to protect the image of honey.”

Cranberry producers have a different beef.

Cranberries are not sweet. Without added sugar, cranberry juice — whether straight or in combination with adult beverages — would be pretty tart.

For cranberry juice the FDA suggested this footnote: “Sugar added to improve the palatability of naturally tart cranberries. The 2015-20120 Dietary Guidelines for Americans state that there is room for limited amounts of Added Sugars in the diet, especially from nutrient dense food like naturally tart cranberries.”

Although they’re willing to go along with that, cranberry producers say the footnote suggests cranberries with sugar added have more sugar than naturally sweet fruits and berries.

So, the FDA is going to take another look at how a label might provide valuable nutritional information without leading consumers to false impressions about honey, maple syrup and cranberry juice.

Good writing is rewriting, even in footnotes.



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