With the new and improved nutrition facts panel coming into effect in 2020, food manufacturers are preparing to upgrade their food labels. While the FDA has made a few significant changes to the panel in hopes of helping Americans make better, more informed choices about what they eat, one change that is getting a lot of attention is the “added sugars” column.
Sugar consumption in the United States is currently at an all-time high, with the average American consuming a whopping 66 pounds of added sugars annually. Therefore, this seemingly small but significant change on the nutrition facts panel could help bring increased awareness about the need for Americans to better monitor and control their sugar intake.
So, if you are a food manufacturer who is gearing up to update their nutrition facts panel, let’s look at some of the important information and guidelines for how to use added sugars on a food label.
How to Use Added Sugars on a Food Label in Accordance with FDA Rules
While there is currently a column for “total sugar” on the nutrition facts panel, it doesn’t tell consumers how much of that sugar naturally occurs in a product (as would be the case for fruit and other foods that naturally contain sugar) or how much sugar the manufacturer has added. Not all sugar is not created equal, after all, and unnatural sources like high fructose corn syrup and refined white sugar may be contributing more to the health problems many Americans face.
The first thing to understand, therefore, is how the FDA defines “added sugars.” Essentially, the new regulations consider added sugars to include:
- Sugars (free sugars, monosaccharides, and disaccharides) added to a product.
- Sugars from natural syrups, like maple syrup and honey, that are added to a product.
- Sugars from manufactured sources, like high fructose corn syrup, that are added to a product.
- Sugars from concentrated fruit or vegetable juices that are used to sweeten a product, if they contain more sugar than the pure fruit or vegetable juice would have in its natural state.
On the flip side, these kinds of sugars don’t need to be labeled as added sugars:
- Naturally occurring sugars in fruit and vegetable juice (this will be included in the “total sugar” column).
- Fruit and vegetable juice concentrates used as part of the total juice percentage.
- Fruit juice concentrations that are used as part of the fruit component in jams, preserves, and jellies.
- The sugar in the fruit used in fruit spreads.
Keep in mind that an added sugars declaration is not required if your product has less than 1 gram of added sugar per serving, as long as you haven’t made any health or nutrient content claims about sweeteners, sugar, added sugar, or sugar alcohol. If your product does have less than 1 gram of added sugar per serving, you can simply include a statement that says something like, “Not a significant source of added sugars.” This statement should be placed at the bottom of the table of nutrient values.
How to Update Your Nutrition Facts Panel
Along with the decision to include added sugars on the food label, the FDA has also established a recommended daily value (DV) for added sugars of 50 grams per day to give Americans an idea of a healthy limit. With that in mind, it may be helpful to make sure your product’s added sugars are below this amount.
If you want to tweak your recipe to reduce the amount of added sugar before the changes to the nutrition facts panel come into effect, the best way to do so is by using online nutrition analysis software. Software like LabelCalc already has the new nutrition facts label format programmed into its system, so you can easily see how much added sugar your product contains. Just create an account, enter your recipe using the USDA-compiled database of ingredients, and watch as your nutrition values instantly generate. From there you can select the new label format and examine your value for added sugars. If the values are higher than you like, you’ll be able to easily adjust your product accordingly.
If you simply want to update your nutrition facts label without changing your recipe, you can enter your recipe, select the new label format, and then you’re ready for compliance. And while you still have some time before the nutrition facts panel compliance date arrives, it’s definitely not too early to switch your label to the new format. This way, you won’t have to worry about it later on and you won’t end up paying a premium when the demand for updating labels increases. And now that you understand the “added sugars” column, you can get ahead of the crowd.
LabelCalc is an industry-leading online nutrition analysis software that helps food manufacturers create and update their nutrition facts panels according to FDA regulations. To get started, contact us today.