By Roger Legg and Beth Vessels, RL Food Testing Laboratory
In March 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued its pro- posal for updating the Nutrition Facts
label that appears on most food packages
in the U.S. The FDA proposes that the
label — first introduced 20 years ago and
largely unchanged since — be changed in
its graphic design and what it measures
to reconsider information about serving
sizes and nutritional content.
Perhaps the most contested aspect
of the FDA’s proposal for the new label
is added sugars. This past July, the FDA
amended its original proposal — which
would require listing the amount of added
sugars in grams — to also require listing
how much a food contains relative to a
total daily limit — a measure called the
percent daily value, or %DV. FDA’s recommended %DV calls for the daily intake of
calories from added sugars to not exceed
10 percent of total calories.
As much of the food industry is now
preparing for the likely change, there are
five important questions about added sugars for food manufacturers to consider.
1. What is an added sugar?
Sugars serve many uses in food processing. Not only does it sweeten or
improve flavor, it also can be used as a
preservative. Sugar helps jellies and jams
from spoiling, aids fermentation in breads
and alcohol, and also keeps baked goods
to stay fresher longer.
The current label requires declaration
of sugars. The proposed new rule would
require declaration of added sugars as
well, indented under sugars, to help consumers understand how much sugar is
naturally occurring and how much has
been added to the product. Currently, the
FDA food label regulations do not have a
definition for added sugars. Under its new
labeling rules, it defines added sugars as
“sugars that are either added during the
processing of foods or during packaging.”
These can include:
• Sugars, such as cane sugar, beet
sugar, brown sugar, dextrose,
glucose, invert sugar, lactose and
• Syrups, such as high fructose corn
syrup, crystalline fructose, malitol
syrup and maple syrup
• Naturally occurring sugars that are
isolated from a whole food and concentrated so that sugar is the primary component, such as fruit juice
• Other caloric sweeteners, including
honey, molasses, corn sweetener
and table sugar
2. How do laboratories test for
It might be surprising to most people to
learn that there is currently no laboratory
test that can differentiate between a naturally occurring sugar and an added sugar.
The FDA acknowledges that because
there is a lack of physiological differences
between the two types of sugar, there
is no current analytical methodology for
detecting the difference.
Because there is no chemical analysis
to differentiate added sugars, the FDA
proposes “an alternative method to assess
compliance ... such as maintenance and
review of records.”
3. How are sugars differentiated
on a food label?
The most widely used method for producing Nutrition Facts labels is database
analysis. This is done by taking a food
product’s detailed recipe and entering it
into a software program.
Should the FDA pass the new label
regulations and include the added sugars
requirement, then software programs will
have an added column for added sugars
and the foods that are known added
sugars, per the FDA’s definition, will be
flagged and their sugar total will fall under
an added sugar category. For example, 1
Tbsp (14g) brown sugar that has 13g of
Sugar in the current software would be
13g of added sugars.
4. Will there be any lag time
between FDA rules
and database information?
Leading software providers are already
making preparations for the new FDA
label and have begun making updates and
changes to its classification of food items.
However, because many recipes include
mixed or processed ingredients, such as
enriched flour, cereal and vanilla extract,
software databases will not be able to
5 Questions Every Food Business
Needs to Ask About Added Sugars
October 2015 n