On May 27, 2016, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published their final rule on the changes that need to take place on nutrition labeling. In the next few years, consumers can expect new product information labels, with the FDA mandating changes by July 2018 or July 2019. The reason for the new rules is to make the nutrition label panel easier to find and understand. The changes are listed below. One thing to note however is that there will be new wording around the “sugars” section. It will say “total sugars” as well as a section that tells you how much “added sugar” has been put into a product. With this change, some manufacturers may choose to reformulate products, especially those sensitive to the new requirements of “added sugar,” with other sweeteners such as polyols because polyols have been deemed “not a sugar” by the FDA. This means if a product uses polyols to sweeten the formula it will not be included in the “added sugar” column.
What Will Be Different?
Some of the major changes that you can expect to see on product labels include:
- Larger print font for calories
- No designation for calories from fat
- Larger print size for serving size and servings per package/container
- Changing “sugars” to “total sugars”
- Inclusion of “added sugars” to the product label
- Requiring the amount of vitamin D and potassium to be listed instead of vitamins A and C
- Changing the language of the footnote on percent Daily Value (%DV)
Let’s Talk About Sugar
One of the most significant changes is the new inclusion of a line for “added sugars.” This is being done in an effort to help consumers understand the amount of sugar that is being added to a product. New Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020 recommend that consumers cut down sugar intake. In the final rule, the FDA defines added sugars as:
Sugars that are either added during the processing of foods, or are packaged as such, and include sugars (free, mono- and disaccharides), syrups, naturally occurring sugars that are isolated from a whole food and concentrated so that sugar is the primary component (e.g. fruit juice concentrates), and other caloric sweeteners…the definition would include single ingredient foods such as individually packaged table sugar, and that sugar alcohols are not considered to be added sugars.
Examples: Brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrates, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, lactose, maltose, malt sugar, molasses, raw sugar, turbinado, sugar, trehalose and sucrose.
It should be noted that the list provided by the FDA as examples of added sugars is not an exhaustive list.
What About Polyols?
It’s important to note that sugar alcohols, or polyols, are not included in the definition of added sugars and therefore, do not need to be included in the added sugars line on labels. Polyols are non-sugar, low-digestible carbohydrates which can be used to partially or totally replace the sugar content of foods and beverages in an effort to lower calories. As a result, polyols can take on a large share of the job as manufacturers try to balance sugar content with consumer demand for sweet taste, but with fewer calories.
Some of the common polyols include erythritol, hydrogenated starch hydrolysates, isomalt, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol and xylitol. They can be found in dozens of everyday products, such as candies, chewing gum, toothpaste, mouthwash, baked goods, yogurt, canned fruit, ice cream and fruit spreads.
Since polyols have fewer calories than sugar, foods and beverages can be formulated with fewer calories for consumers interested in monitoring their weight or caloric intake. Polyols are also metabolized differently than sugar, requiring much smaller amounts of insulin, which is a benefit for those with diabetes. Also, unlike sugar, polyols do not cause tooth decay as they are not converted to acids by bacteria in the mouth. In fact, this is why polyols are often used in toothpaste, mouthwash and other oral health products to help improve the taste. If you are looking to manage calories or sugar intake, look out for products made with polyols!