July 28, 2014

More than 330 Public Health Experts Call on FDA to Label Added Sugar

WASHINGTON (July 28, 2014) – More than 330 scientists, physicians and public health officials are calling on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to include a line for added sugar on the ubiquitous Nutrition Facts label.

In a letter submitted as a public comment for the agency’s first label update since 1994, the signatories point out that sugar overconsumption contributes to diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other ailments. Americans consume an average of 82 grams of sugar a day, they write, far more than the World Health Organization or American Heart Association recommends.

“This cannot be solved without public education,” they write. “Many food and beverage manufacturers add excessive amounts of sugar to their products, including those that they market as healthy options. In our current food environment, many people are unknowingly and unavoidably consuming excess sugar. Given our soaring rates of chronic diseases and the link between sugar and these diseases, citizens have a right to know how much sugar has been added to their foods.”

The experts also urge the FDA to include a maximum daily value on the updated label so consumers can easily gauge how a product fits into their diet. Specifically, they recommend an upper limit of 10 percent of one’s daily calories from added sugar, the equivalent of 50 grams.

The signers also note that the rules are flexible enough to account for concerns the food industry has raised around measuring the amount of sugar companies add to products.  They acknowledge that voluntary labeling efforts, such as the Grocery Manufacturers Association Facts Up Front initiative, can “play a limited role in consumer education,” but caution that they are “insufficient” and “can confuse consumers.” Importantly, the voluntary label does not include added sugars, they write.

The letter, organized by the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, includes scores of signers from Healthy Food Action, a national network of health professionals founded by Dr. David Wallinga. Co-authors include Dr. Robert Lustig, Professor of Pediatrics at UCSF, and author of Fat Chance, who was a scientific advisor to the documentary Fed Up, and Dr. Marion Nestle, professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, and author of several books including, Eat, Drink, Vote and Food Politics.

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with citizens across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.