Soon the packaged foods and beverages you buy will feature a revised Nutrition Facts Panel (NFP) intended to provide clearer information about things like ingredients, daily values, and serving sizes. The goal is to help Americans make healthier choices about what they eat, but one of the proposed changes—if implemented—may have the opposite effect.
The International Food Information Council (IFIC) recently conducted an online survey of more than 1,000 adults to determine whether or not including a line for “Added Sugars” on the new NFP would be beneficial, but researchers believe the distinction may cause more confusion than clarification. That’s because many consumers are still unclear about what added sugars really are.
The term added sugars refers to the sugar added to processed foods and beverages as they are being made. This includes natural sugars (such as honey and fruit sugar) as well as processed sugars such as high-fructose corn syrup. Added sugars have no nutritional value and have been linked to health risks such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
Even with the distinction, survey results indicated that consumers—even those who said they typically read NFPs—still had a hard time accurately identifying how much sugar was in each product. Many were also unsure about whether or not the sugars in an “Added Sugars” line were included in the total amount of sugar for a product (currently listed as just “Sugars”).
As we await the impending label changes, this new survey spotlights the need to improve public education about added sugars and the dangers of a high-sugar diet. “Consumer understanding of added sugars on the Nutrition Facts Panel is limited,” said study co-author Marianne Smith Edge, who believes better education is critical to help people make informed choices about their diet and health.