FDA says maple syrup, honey won’t have ‘added sugars’ on their labels, after all 

  • A proposed label for pure honey shows how the "added sugar" description would be handled - with a footnote. The FDA has backed off this idea. Courtesy

  • ABOVE: Nick Wallner uses a smoker to calm his bee hive in his back yard in Concord. Monitor file photos

Monitor staff
Published: 9/7/2018 1:32:10 PM

Maple syrup and honey producers won’t have to put an “added sugars” designation on their nutrition labels, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Thursday, news that will come as a relief to producers who feared backlash from consumers.

The FDA said new guidance about added sugars will be released early next year and they will exempt pure maple syrup and honey.

In 2016, the Federal Food and Drug Administration began rolling out changes to the label “to reflect new scientific information” about links between diet and chronic health problems like heart disease and diabetes. The change was driven in large part by an increasing amount of sugar being added to processed foods, even many that do not obviously contain sugar, such as ketchup.

While nutrition labels have long included the total amount of sugar in the product, the FDA wanted to emphasize the situation. As part of the change, the FDA said on its website: “Added sugars, in grams and as percent Daily Value, will be included on the label. Scientific data shows that it is difficult to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits if you consume more than 10 percent of your total daily calories from added sugar.”

It turns out that the percentage of natural sugar in maple syrup and honey is so high that it would have triggered an “added sugars” designation, even when no sugar is added.

The news drew outrage from producers and agriculture officials throughout New England, who sought an exemption for single-ingredient products such as syrup and honey.

“It’s just not the right descriptor. People will be unnecessarily confused,” said Gail McWilliam-Jellie, director of the state Division of Agricultural Development.

The changes to the Nutrition Facts labels attached to all processed foods, will occur in 2020 or 2021, depending on the producer’s size.

It’s unclear what will happen with the label for cranberries, which face a different problem.

Certain cranberry products, such as juices and dried products, do have sugar added to them, but they are so naturally tart that the total amount of sugar remains fairly low. Cranberry producers complained that putting “added sugars” on their labels was unfair because some competing products such as orange juice are made with fruits that are inherently sweet and have more total sugar than cranberry products.

As of earlier this year, FDA guidance. allows a lengthy footnote to Nutrition Facts labels on cranberry products saying: “The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans state that there is room for limited amounts of Added Sugars in the diet, especially from nutrient dense food like naturally tart cranberries.”

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)

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