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FDA labels obligated to reveal sour truth about sugar

Controversy is brewing in one of the most unlikely places: The hot topic on many executives’ and advocates’ minds is the new nutrition labeling proposal put forward by the Federal Food and Drug Administration.

The proposal, which was made at the beginning of the year, would be the first significant transformation of the Nutrition Facts label since 1993.

Though the proposal suggests several changes, including updated serving sizes and the removal of the “Calories from Fat” section, the buzz in the food industry is around one specific change: the addition of an “Added Sugars” section. Added sugars in this case are classified as those which are not originally present in foods, but are added during production and processing.

The FDA proposes labeling these extra sugars due to expert findings suggesting that added sugars lead people to consume less nutrient rich foods, and more calories overall. In essence, added sugars represent “empty calories.” Currently, Americans consume, on average, 16 percent of their total calories from added sugars.

Food producers have been livid about the proposed changes, claiming that there is no scientific evidence to support the addition of an added sugars label. This is no surprise, considering added sugars have infiltrated almost every product on the market from ketchup, to crackers, and beyond. This is hardly surprising since the human brain has been shown to respond to sweetness in a way that is similar to cocaine.

All of these added sugars have added up; it has now been shown that Americans eat three times the amount of sugar they need on a daily basis. Yet opponents continue to argue against the new labeling. Forbes magazine has even argued that the proposal violates the corporations’ first amendment right to refrain from speaking.

However, by this argument the FDA should have no authority to mandate any disclosure of nutritional information or ingredients; the information that is important for consumers to protect their health much like the added sugar label.

The World Health Organization has warned against excess sugar intake due to its link to a number of serious health issues. Therefore it is critically important that consumers be able to assess where these excess sugars are entering their diet from, especially due to the overwhelming presence of sugar in today’s food market.

Food is a $5 billion dollar industry, and there is no doubt that they will do everything in their power to prevent this new legislation from passing.

Citizens need to stand up for their right to know what is being put in their food, especially if this measure is to pass. We can only hope that the FDA will abide to its founding purpose of protecting consumer interests.