FDA has requested information and comments on the nutrition labeling for sugars that are metabolized differently than traditional sugars. These include sweeteners such as D-tagatose and isomaltulose.
“Similar to FDA’s past request for information relating to non-traditional sweeteners, such as allulose, this is an important step in the agency compiling information needed to make well-informed determinations relative to any future labeling requirements, whether by rule making or enforcement discretion,” says Robert Durkin, of counsel for Arnall Golden Gregory, and former acting director and deputy director of the office of dietary supplement programs in FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “The recent changes to the nutrition and supplement facts panels, which are already implemented for large companies and will be phased in and fully implemented to include small companies in just a few months, reflect FDA’s efforts to help consumers have readily available and accurate information that they can use to make healthy eating choices.”
The information may be used to lead FDA to change how sweeteners are labeled on the nutrition facts label, which could make sugar reduction easier to achieve.
“We welcome input on these sugars,” Susan Mayne, PhD, director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said in a statement. “Our goal is to provide information on food labels that is meaningful to consumers, providing them the information that they need to make informed decisions about their food choices and health—and information that is also based in the latest nutritional science.”
According to Durkin, this shouldn’t be interpreted as FDA indicating that their position is that these non-traditional sweeteners are any better or worse for consumers, citing the fact that the agency has already weighed in on that determination through the food additive or GRAS process. “This is more about food labels accurately reflecting the nutritional aspects of what the product contains,” he says.
This summer, the Sugar Association petitioned FDA, believing sweeping changes were needed on sweetener labeling. In its letter, the organization argued that ingredients such as maltitol, rebaudioside A, and erythritol can accurately be labeled as “all natural” and “no sugar added,” resulting in consumers often incorrectly assuming the products have no other sweeteners in them.
“Consumers deserve to know what is in their food so they can make informed decisions for themselves and their families,” says Courtney Gaine, the Sugar Association’s president and CEO. “These changes by FDA will bring the complete transparency in sweetener labeling that we know consumers want, deserve, and should expect.” While the FDA’s new request for information doesn’t directly address the Sugar Association’s concern, Gaine notes that it does crack open the door for eventually offering full transparency on labels.
Durkin adds that, if past FDA actions are any indication, the industry can eventually expect additional changes to the nutrition and supplement facts panels, most likely in the way calories, sugars, and added sugars are reported.
The comment period is open until December 18, 2020.