Added sugar labeling could compromise trade secrets, says NCA

US confectioners worried sensitive formulation information may be leaked when the FDA measures added sugars in candy

The National Confectioners Association is concerned that added sugar declarations on the Nutrition Facts Panel would force confectioners to give away recipe “trade secrets”.

In March, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed changes to the Nutrition Facts Panel that would force manufacturers to list added sugars, per serving size.

The FDA defined added sugars as those sugars and syrups added to foods during processing or preparation. It does not include sugars naturally present in ingredients.

‘Threatening the viability of business’

In a submission to the FDA, the National Confectioners Association (NCA) said that since there was no analytical method to distinguish between added and intrinsic sugars, manufacturers would have to hand over recipes.

“Recipes are highly sensitive trade secrets.  Unintentional disclosure of recipe information by FDA would severely compromise a company’s intellectual property and could potentially threaten the viability of its business,” it said.

“FDA lacks the legal authority to inspect and copy recipes even in emergency situations. Furthermore, if FDA were to have access to these records, NCA is concerned about their protection from public disclosure.”

The NCA also said added sugar labels could confuse consumers and called on the FDA to conduct research into how consumers understood the term before making added sugar labeling mandatory.

"We suspect many consumers will consider this information superfluous," it said.

Front of pack calorie labels

NCA adopted a voluntary front of pack calorie labeling program last year that has been adopted by members such as Jelly Belly and Hershey. Mars was labeling calories front of pack before the program began and Mondelēz recently committed to front of pack calorie labeling on products globally by 2016.

Why put added sugars on the label?

The comment period for the FDA's proposed changes closed earlier this month on 1 August.

The average American eats 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day, amounting to an extra 350 calories, according to a scientific statement from the American Heart Association (AHA). The FDA said in its proposals that added sugar made up around 16% of a consumer’s daily calorie intake.

The AHA recommends that consumers cut back to six teaspoons of added sugar per day to reduce the risk of obesity and heart disease. However, the FDA has not proposed a dietary recommended value for added sugars.

Added sugars are chemically identical to naturally occurring sugars, but have lower micronutrient densities, according to a report on micronutrients by the IOM Dietary Reference Intakes Reports.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans specified that high intake of calories from excess solid fat and added sugars may decrease the intake of nutrient-rich foods.

WHO guidelines

Main sources of added sugars in the diet
  1. Soda
  2. Energy and sports drinks
  3. Grain based desserts
  4. Sugar-sweetened fruit drinks
  5. Dairy-based desserts
  6. Candy

Source: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey

Many single-serve (50 g) chocolate bars contain around 25 g of total sugar. This is higher than the World Health Organization’s latest guidance on ‘free sugars’.

Free sugars are those added to foods by the manufacturer, plus those naturally present in honey, syrups, and fruit juices. But it does not include sugar naturally present in milk or whole fruit and vegetables.

WHO said earlier this year that halving a person’s recommended free sugar intake to 5% of total calorie intake per day “would have additional benefits”, due to new research on obesity and dental carries. This equates to around 25 g of sugar a day for an average sized adult. However, the current 10% guideline is still in force, which equates to 50 g.

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