New Site Allows Consumers to Urge FDA to Stop 'Hiding' Artificial Sweeteners

Published online: Sep 10, 2020 News
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Source: The Sugar Association

Parents and other consumers who want to reduce, eliminate or monitor their exposure to alternative sweeteners in packaged foods and beverages now have a new and easy way to demand the placement of complete, clear and fully transparent information about sugar substitutes on ingredient labels.  They can take action by visiting www.sugar.org/take-action/.

The new online tool was developed by the Sugar Association as part of its Campaign for Sweetener Transparency. In June the association filed a citizen petition asking the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to enact sweeping reform of federal labeling requirements for alternative sweeteners to give consumers access to complete and accurate information about this class of ingredients.

The petition is supported by the National Consumers League, a leading proponent of full disclosure of sugar substitutes on food packages. The American Academy of Pediatrics and Center for Science in the Public Interest have also called on the FDA for more transparency in sugar substitute labeling and an end to misleading sugar claims.

“Consumers deserve to know more about the alternative sweeteners in their food,” says Cara Harbstreet, a nationally recognized registered dietitian and owner of Street Smart Nutrition. “But because of the FDA’s antiquated labeling regulations, consumers are too often left in the dark, not knowing what sugar substitutes are in their favorite foods and why.  It’s time for FDA to modify requirements to keep up with changes in the food supply.”

The use of alternative sweeteners in food and beverages has surged more than 300 percent in the last five years. Once used primarily as a tabletop sweetener, alternative sweeteners are now everywhere in the food supply – found in products like bread, cereal, granola bars, yogurt, ice cream, milk and children’s beverages.

But it’s virtually impossible for shoppers to know what alternative sweeteners are in which packaged foods because the FDA only requires food companies to list the chemical names of sugar substitutes on food ingredient labels. So consumers only see names like xylitol, hydrogenated starch hydrolysates, saccharin, acesulfame potassium, neotame, isomalt and lactitol on ingredients lists without even knowing what they are and why they are used.

At a time when millions of consumers across America are demanding transparency and access to information about what is in their foods, they need access to complete information to meet their dietary goals.  The federal government and food companies need to change the way they do things so consumers can simply and easily meet their nutrition objectives.

The FDA is inviting concerned citizens to comment on the petition via the public comment website it has established for consumer input. By law, the FDA has until Dec. 3 to provide some type of response to the petition and will consider the evidence submitted to the docket when making its final decision.

Parents, families and individuals whowant to learn more – and contact FDA to demand change – can visit www.sugar.org/take-action/.