Sugar Wars: M&M Maker Wants Labels for Added Sugar


Washington Insider: M&M Maker Wants Labels for Added Sugar 

The dietary guidelines fight this year has been bitter and protracted and involved the food industry, scientists, Congress and others to an unusual extent. Currently, the World Health Organization and the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee continue to counsel the federal government and to recommend the public limit added sugar to 10{f2533179b7c7e7cbdbc11018732de14c82f3d44c9f1e829e9a046cc47141a2e6} of daily calories — a shift in the regulatory concept that long has focused on the total amount of each nutrient.

The proposal that product labels include an extra line for added sugar may not seem like that much of a deal to you, but government and industry officials say the governor of Massachusetts implored the administration to rethink its proposal, as did the governor of Wisconsin and the government of Australia. Those officials all warned the move could violate international trade agreements.

Food industry representatives say the proposal is unwarranted and current labels disclose the total amount of sugar in a product clearly, lumping together sugar occurring naturally and that added during processing. Sugar is sugar, they say and there is no evidence that justifies singling out one type for added labeling requirements. Of course, opponents warn of a slippery slope that starts with sugar but doesn't end there. Any number of ingredients could be targeted next as a de facto warning to consumers, they say.

“Consumers already have the information they need to make healthy dietary choices,” the Dairy Institute of California wrote in lengthy objections to the administration's plan. Trade associations generally think that trade secrets of the flavored-milk industry would be disclosed if dairies were forced to reveal how many teaspoons of sugar were added to each carton.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and then-Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat, wrote the FDA that forcing disclosure of added sugar in cranberry products would be unfair because, unlike other fruits, cranberries are so bitter that they are unpalatable without it.

The Campbell Soup Co. argued that revealing how much sugar they pour into their cans could help make Americans more obese. “Such information could confuse consumers by taking their focus off of calories,” the company's director of regulatory affairs wrote to the agency.

In this context, Mars Inc., maker of M&M's and Snickers, surprised observers by throwing its support behind the proposed regulation to focus on added sugars. Mars doesn't currently break out added sugar either, and says it doesn't plan to unless the FDA labeling changes are mandated.

Dave Crean, global head of research and development at Mars, told the Wall Street Journal that after much research, the company determined more information wouldn't be harmful to consumers who often consume too much added sugar, contributing to obesity epidemic and diabetes.

“It's not the entire answer to the public health issue, but it is a monumental change for the industry,” Crean said of the advisory committee's recommendation and the FDA's proposed label change.

So, it will be important to see what FDA decides about the “added sugar” proposal. Clearly, the obesity problem in the United States is important and sweeteners likely have played a role in that “epidemic” and more information likely will help rather than hurt consumers, as Mars believes.

It is equally clear that this fight is not over, no matter what FDA decides. The food industries have a huge stake in what labels are allowed and which are not, and the distinction regarding added sugars likely will be a battle ground for some time in the future — and, should be watched carefully as it proceeds, Washington Insider believes.



Source:  DTN Washington Insider

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