Looking at the label of any food product on grocery store shelves and you’ll find the total amount of sugar in that item. But does it matter how much of that sugar is from a food’s raw ingredients, and how much sweetener was added?
The United States Food and Drug Administration is asking the public to comment on that very issue — whether food manufacturers should be required to define how much sugar is added to a product, instead of just the total, which is all the law requires currently, reports Reuters.
Proponents of the proposal say it’s important because there are dangers in added sugars and caloric sweeteners that aren’t present in say, the sugars in a piece of fruit.
Health advocates and groups like the Center for Science in the Public Interest say listing the added sugars could cut down on health issues like diabetes and obesity, taking the view of some experts and scientists who say that added sugars are just empty calories, contributing to weight gain without the other nutrients a consumer can get from naturally occurring sugars.
“There’s been an increasing drum beat on the part of public health advocates to give consumers that information,” Michael Jacobson, the head of CSPI tells Reuters, adding that he was “delighted and almost in disbelief” when he heard the FDA’s proposal.
On the other hand, food companies and those in the sugar industry say that sugar is sugar — it doesn’t matter if it’s from an apple or added later — and that making a distinction could be dangerous for consumers.
“Sugar is sugar, regardless of the source. Giving consumers a false impression that reducing added sugars without reducing calories may actually delay finding a real solution the problem” of obesity, Campbell Soup Company wrote in a letter to the FDA.
The Sugar Association also came out against the proposal, saying there isn’t enough scientific evidence to back the claim that natural and added sugars are different when it comes to health.