The Sugar Association on June 3 filed a citizen petition asking the FDA to require clearer labeling of low- and no-calorie sweeteners on food packages.
The association wants the term “sweetener” in parentheses following the chemical names of those sweeteners (aspartame, stevia, etc.) in the ingredient statement and, for children’s food and beverages, the type and quantity (in milligrams per serving) of non-nutritive sweeteners on the front of food packages – among other suggestions.
“Consumers deserve to know what is in their food so they can make informed decisions for themselves and their families,” said Courtney Gaine, president/CEO of the Sugar Assn. “These changes by FDA will bring the complete transparency in sweetener labeling that we know consumers want, deserve and should expect.”
Sugar suppliers were on the short end of an FDA labeling change this year when the agency required “added sugars” to be called out separately on the new Nutrition Facts panel. As a result, processors have been finding ways to reformulate without added sugars. The American Medical Assn. in 2018 pushed for all sugars to be called out on the front of food packages.
In addition to the above two points, the petition asks the FDA to:
- Require the disclosure “Sweetened with [name of Sweetener(s)]” for products making a no/low/reduced sugar content claim.
- Disclose the potential gastrointestinal side effects from the consumption of sugar alcohols and some sugar substitutes in foods at the lowest observed effect levels.
- Ensure all sugar content claims related to sugar and sugar substitutes are truthful and non-misleading.
The association says its petition is supported by “a wealth of consumer and marketplace data” and a November 2019 policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement that seeks to inform and gauge pediatric exposure to alternative sweeteners – “something that is currently unknown.”
The Sugar Assn. cited consumer opinion research by Quadrant Strategies (1,002 sample size) that found:
- Given a list of food additives, consumers correctly identified sweetening ingredients only 37% of the time.
- 73% of parents think it’s important to know the amount of sugar substitutes in their children’s food.
- 66% of consumers say it’s important for sugar substitutes to be clearly identified as sweeteners on food labels.
The association wants labeling for (but not limited to) aspartame, saccharin, acesulfame potassium (ace-k), neotame, sucralose, steviol glycosides (stevia) and lou han guo (monk fruit).