Consumer group says high sugar intake undermines U.S. diet

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today invited the public to comment on whether “added sugars” should be included on Nutrition Facts labels. The FDA’s announcement was in response to a petition filed last year by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and 72 health experts and organizations.

     Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of CSPI, said, “Soaring sugar consumption undoubtedly contributes to soaring obesity rates. In addition, sugary foods, like soft drinks, push more healthful foods, like fat-free milk, out of people’s diets.” U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data show that consumption of added sugars — cane, beet, corn, and other sugars — has increased 30 percent since 1983.

     “Listing added sugars on labels would alert consumers as to how much added sugars are in a serving of food,” Jacobson added. “It’s vital that food labels give consumers the information they need to reduce their consumption of added sugars.”

     The USDA advises people who eat a 2,000-calorie healthful diet to limit themselves to about 10 teaspoons of added sugars. However, USDA surveys find that the average American consumes 20 teaspoons a day, twice the recommendation.

     Just one month ago, the federal government’s new edition of "Dietary Guidelines for Americans" recognized that many consumers are eating too many sugar-rich foods. The document urges consumers to “Choose sensibly to limit your intake of beverages and foods that are high in added sugars.”

     CSPI’s petition asks the FDA to adopt USDA’s figure of 10 teaspoons (40 grams) as the “Daily Value” for added sugars. Daily Values are currently used on food labels to indicate the recommended maximum intakes of fat, sodium, and other nutrients.

     Many individual foods provide large fractions of the USDA’s recommended sugar limit. For instance, a typical cup of flavored yogurt provides 70 percent of a day’s worth of added sugar, a cup of regular ice cream provides 60 percent, a 12-ounce Pepsi provides 103 percent, and a quarter-cup of pancake syrup provides 103 percent.

     “One of the biggest problems with sugary foods is that they replace more nutrient-rich foods,” said Jacobson. “According to a USDA study, people who eat diets high in added sugars get less calcium, fiber, folate, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, magnesium, iron, and other nutrients than people who eat lower-sugar diets. They also consume fewer fruits and vegetables.”

     The CSPI petition was supported by 39 organizations, ranging from the American Public Health Association and former Surgeon General Koop’s Shape Up America! to the YMCA and the Girl Scouts of America. It was also supported by 33 experts on obesity, heart disease, and dental caries, including George L. Blackburn, Harvard Medical School; Kelly D. Brownell, Professor of Psychology, Epidemiology, and Public Health at Yale University; and Frank Sacks, Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health.

Today’s FDA announcement can be found at:
Comments may be submitted to the FDA (indicate Docket No. 99P-2630 on all comments):
 By mail: 5630 Fishers Lane, Room 1061, Rockville, MD 20852.
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