Could forcing food companies to separately label added sugars lead to a reduction in sugary ingredients? The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) thinks so!
Have you ever grabbed what you thought was a semi-healthy snack or drink on the go only to realize it was basically a glorified candy bar or soda pop? Even the most diligent label-reader sometimes makes this mistake, and most consumers aren’t taking the time to scour an ingredients list for unhealthy additives like high fructose corn syrup, sugar, cane syrup, maple syrup, and other added sugars.
The CSPI recently sent a letter to the FDA (pdf) – signed by more than 40 heath professionals asking that food companies break out “added sugars” on nutrition labels. So, what’s the reasoning?
According to Marion Nestle (a food policy expert, no relation to the candy company):
If the situation with trans fats was any indication, the food industry will reduce the sugars in its products if it has to disclose them.
This is not the first time that CSPI has tried to get added sugars labeled (see petition from 1999). I’m hoping the letter of support will encourage the FDA to take action this time.
Maybe it will even put sugars on front-of-package labels, as the Institute of Medicine suggested in 2011.
Before the FDA began requiring that food companies label trans fats, did most folks even know that they were eating them? I’d be money that most consumers still don’t even think about why trans fats are unhealthy, but just seeing them broken out on a food label signals that they are.
I’m with Nestle and the CSPI on this one: if consumers become more aware of how much added sugar is in the food and drinks on store shelves, they might just be empowered to choose healthier options, and that would force food companies to supply that demand.
The main focus of the CSPI campaign seems to be sodapop and other sugar-sweetened drinks (the graphic below shows why!), but there are so many foods at the store that are also full of added sugar, including a lot of foods that masquerade as healthy options. Granola bars come to mind – most of these “healthy” snacks are just leanwashed candy bars. Same thing with a lot of the dry cereal, especially the ones marketed toward kids.
CSPI has an infographic that looks at the major sources of dietary added sugars:
What do you guys think? Could you see this requirement helping consumers stay more informed?
Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by Uwe Hermann