Listing Teaspoons of Added Sugars and Lowering Sodium Value Among CSPI's Recommendations for Nutrition Facts Revisions
CSPI Supports FDA's Proposal to Adjust Serving Sizes to Reflect Reality
August 4, 2014
The Food and Drug Administration should require Nutrition Facts labels to have a Daily Value for added sugars, lower the existing Daily Value for sodium to 1,500 milligrams, and increase the serving size for soups, coffee creamer, pasta, and several other foods. Those are several of the recommendations made by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest, which filed comments Friday with the FDA as the agency's period for public comment comes to a close. The FDA issued its proposed revisions to Nutrition Facts labels in March.
The FDA's proposed revisions called for a new line for added sugars on Nutrition Facts labels to help consumers distinguish added sugars from the naturally occurring sugars in fruit, milk, and yogurt. Diets higher in added sugars can lead to weight gain, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, says CSPI. But the agency did not propose a Daily Value for added sugars, which would make it impossible for consumers to know how much of a day’s worth of added sugars a food contained. CSPI had earlier recommended a Daily Value of 10 teaspoons; the American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than six teaspoons per day and men no more than nine. CSPI's comments also urge FDA to express added sugars in teaspoons, which consumers are more familiar with, along with grams.
While FDA proposed lowering the current Daily Value for sodium from 2,400 milligrams to 2,300 mg, CSPI asked the agency to lower it further to 1,500 mg, an amount also recommended by the American Heart Association. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that more than half of all Americans—including those who are middle-aged or older, African-Americans, and individuals with hypertension, diabetes, or kidney disease—consume no more than 1,500 mg. CSPI deems salt the deadliest ingredient in the food supply, promoting hypertension, heart disease, and stroke. The group also asked the FDA to require Nutrition Facts labels to list milligrams of salt rather than sodium. Again, said CSPI, people understand salt better than sodium.
"By bringing Nutrition Facts in line with current nutrition science, the government has an enormous opportunity to help Americans reduce their risk of diabetes, heart disease, strokes, and other illnesses," said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. "Americans are killing themselves by eating so much sugar and salt. Nutrition Facts labels should help consumers see how various packaged foods fit—or don't fit—into their diets."
CSPI also expressed its support for the "alternate" label proposed by the FDA over the version in the agency’s proposed label design. The alternate label flags for consumers which nutrients they should "get enough" of and which they should "avoid too much" of.
CSPI agreed that FDA should adjust the serving sizes of ice cream, breads, muffins, and bagels to reflect the larger amounts that people typically eat. However, CSPI urged FDA to require packages with up to three times a standard serving of a food to be labeled "per package." Many foods, including potato chips, microwave popcorn, pot pies, and macaroni and cheese, come in packages that are small enough to be eaten at one sitting, but are labeled as if they contain two or three servings.
Finally, though it wasn't in FDA's proposal, CSPI urged the FDA to require ingredients lists to be legible, including by using bullets to separate ingredients from one another. Health Canada adopted such a recommendation for its revisions to Canadian nutrition labels.
Nutrition Facts labels became mandatory after the enactment of the 1990 Nutrition Labeling and Education Act. Except for the addition of a line for trans fat added in 2006, the labels have basically been frozen in time since their adoption 20 years ago.