Some nutrients that are in foods and beverages are regarded as unhealthy when consumed in more than small amounts. Nutritionists and health officials often refer to them as Nutrients of Concern . The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that they are 'nutrients to limit' and have listed 5:
- total fat
- saturated fat
- trans fat
Concerns When Designing a Nutrition Facts Label
Nutrients of Concern are listed in the Nutrition Facts panel of packaged products and note that saturated fat and sodium are receiving the most attention.
Take care in your new product development when formulating foods and designing a nutrition facts label : attempt to minimize the amount per serving of these five nutrients. Food & Beverage brands want their product to be viewed as healthy. High levels of 'nutrients of concern' make it really hard to take that view. The FDA has recently taken a preliminary step toward introducing a sixth nutrient of concern, added sugars, to Nutrition Facts.
Scientist and News Media Declaring War on Sugar
Sugar awareness is heightened with articles and scientific journals proposing that sugar should be regulated like alcohol and tobacco and articles positioned as the toxic truth about sugar surely add confusion and concern for consumers. All the more reason for food & beverage brands to consider what sugars are really necessary for consumer acceptance of the taste of their products.
Sugar Nutrition Information and Your Nutritional Facts Panel
'Sugars' are currently included in the Nutritional Facts Panel. In late December the FDA gave notice that it would like to insert a line for 'Added Sugars'. It would be immediately below and indented to the right of the line for 'Sugars'. Added sugars plus natural sugars equals sugars. Natural sugars are the sugars that are in milk, fruit, and some vegetables like beets and carrots. Added sugars are the ones that are in formulated foods. The two most commonly used added sugars are sugar (sucrose) and high fructose corn syrup. All of the sugars in milk are natural sugars. All of the sugars in a sweetened soft drink are added sugars. Some foods and beverages, like chocolate milk and fruit preserves, contain both.
The federal government's Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 has a pie chart with the categories of foods and beverages that contribute the most added sugars. It is reproduced here in the upper right corner. If you are developing a new food product that includes sugar, visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture where they have compiled a database with the added sugars and total sugars content of over two thousand foods and beverages.
Front of the Package Nutritional Labeling May Focus on Added Sugars Health Concern
Sugars are thought to promote weight gain, especially when in ready to drink beverages… basically they act as empty calories. The American Heart Association reports that they are a cause of cardiovascular disease. They lack vitamins, minerals, and other health promoting nutrients. FDA wants added sugars in all Nutritional Facts Panels for many reasons. A federally financed report, that was released last Fall, recommends that added sugars be regarded as an unhealthy nutrient along with saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium. The report suggests giving foods and beverages a nutritional score based on the level of these four nutrients. Those foods and beverages with less, will earn a higher score. The government will require that this score appear on the front of the packaging of foods and beverages.
FOP Labeling should greatly benefit consumers recognize sugar on food label.
Recently Walmart is Taking the Lead in Front-of-Package (FOP) Nutrition Labeling their new Great For You Icons on selected Walmart Private Label products. Sugars are ripe for FOP focus so keep this in mind when you are designing any food packaging .
The FDA Moves Slow
The FDA always proceeds very slowly when it proposes changes in nutrition labeling. A major reason is that food and beverages companies need a lot of lead time to make changes in the Nutrition Facts panel of their product packaging. It may be four or more years before the Added Sugars line is required. When the change is made, it will be accompanied with a public education campaign explaining why added sugars are undesirable. They may very well come to be regarded as the next trans fat in terms of being unwanted food ingredients.
Food and beverage developers will be forced to take note, and develop products that have lower levels of added sugars compared to what is currently being offered. This, of course, is exactly what the federal government, nutritionists, and health officials want to have happen.