The white sugar granules on my cereal and the sugar that makes my orange sweet are the same thing, right?
Well, yes. And no.
They're both sugars – the white sugar is sucrose and the fruit sugar is fructose – and they both fall under the umbrella of carbohydrates, which means they function as energy sources for the body, but the FDA proposed label regulations say this is where the similarities stop.
If the proposed changes pass, total sugars and added sugars would be listed separately on the Nutrition Facts panel.
Right now, "Sugar" on the Nutrition Facts panel is total sugar, and includes glucose, fructose, galactose, sucrose, lactose, and maltose. All of these sugars are found naturally in foods, such as fruit, plain milk, and plain yogurt. It also includes sugars that are added to foods during processing. (Sucrose and fructose are the sugars that are most often added to manufactured products.) Regular soft drinks are the leading source of added sugars in the U.S. diet. Other sources include candy, sweetened breads, and breakfast cereals.
So, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend we limit our intake of added sugar to 25% of total calories because added sugars do not contribute significant nutrient value to a food. Generally, added sugar offers calories but little if any other nutrients. The FDA is proposing that added sugars be singled out on the label to make consumers more aware and to encourage them to consider the added sugar content in choosing foods. On the proposed label, added sugar would be a subset of total sugar, displaying that portion of the total sugar that was added to the product during processing.
Whether or not the final regulations require that added sugars be included on the label, rest assured, that we will be prepared. We have been following the developments closely and have even created a sample proposed label that can be seen in the latest version of Genesis R&D Food Development and Labeling software. For those of you curious about sugars in your diet, ask about The Food Processor Nutrition and Fitness software.