When Added Sugars Take a Holiday

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This article is written by Food Consulting Company, December 2023

You’ve probably grown accustomed to seeing “added sugars” values on food labels, a change that took effect in 2016 when FDA revamped the Nutrition Facts label. While this addition has been well-received by industry and consumers alike, there are some food products for which these values may be confusing. In these instances, the regulations allow for alternative labeling options within the Nutrition Facts label.

Special provisions apply to pure maple syrup, honey, sugar, and other single-ingredient sweeteners. What makes these products exempt? Consider the various types of maple syrup available for purchase. Pure maple syrup is produced from tapping maple trees and boiling down maple sap, whereas maple-flavored products use sugar or corn syrup as the base. The concern with declaring added sugars in pure maple syrup is that labeling “Xg added sugars” may suggest to consumers that there is added sugar or corn syrup, versus being a pure maple syrup product.

For this reason, the 2018 Farm Bill requires that FDA make an “added sugars” exemption for sweeteners such as maple syrup. It’s important to note that while these products are not required to include the gram value for added sugars, the exemption does not apply to % Daily Value (%DV). The sugar in these products still contribute to the consumer’s total daily value; thus, the %DV must be listed.

There are also allowances for declaring added sugars in cranberry products. When sweeteners are added to any dried fruit or juice – including cranberry products – they are considered added sugars and must be declared in the Nutrition Facts label. Unlike other fruit products, cranberry juice and dried cranberries require added sugars to make this naturally tart, low sugar fruit palatable to consumers. After the sweeteners are added, the total sugar value is comparable to that of other unsweetened dried fruits and juices. To help consumers make this comparison, some cranberry products are allowed to add a special symbol (†) and statement near the Nutrition Facts label describing the necessity of added sugars. This statement may read something like, “The sugars added to this cranberry beverage are meant to increase the palatability of the naturally tart fruit. The amount of total sugars per serving does not exceed the amount of total sugars in a comparable product with no added sugars.”

——-Food Label News,  Volume 23, Number 22