Confused about added sugar? FDA issues draft guidance on Nutrition Facts changes

FDA issues draft guidance on Nutrition Facts, added sugar

The FDA has attempted to clear up some of the confusion over defining and calculating added sugar, in new draft guidance designed to help firms get to grips with the key changes it is making to the Nutrition Facts panel.

In the guidance, which you can read HERE, the FDA addresses added sugars, fermented beverages, font styles and other areas where manufacturers have asked for clarification.

When it comes to added sugars – the most controversial feature of the new-look labels – the FDA acknowledges that biochemically, sugar is sugar - whether it occurs naturally in foods such as fruits or is added to a product such as soda.

However, singling out the added variety on food labels (which manufacturers must do by July 2018, or July 2019 if they have annual food sales of <$10m) will help consumers identify foods with more empty calories, it argues.

Fruit juice confusion

But how will this impact fruit juices?  

The FDA’s definition* of ‘added sugars’ includes naturally-occurring sugars that are concentrated and used as sweeteners in a variety of foods, such as fruit juice concentrates, says the draft guidance: “We consider foods sweetened with concentrated fruit or vegetable juices to be sugar-sweetened foods.”

However, this doesn’t mean that a 100% juice made from concentrates would have to list all its sugar as ‘added.’

To illustrate its point, the FDA notes that if a fruit juice blend (made with concentrates) is “reconstituted such that the sugar concentration is less than what would be expected in the same amount of the same type of single strength juice… the added sugar declaration would be zero.”

If the juice blend is reconstituted such that the sugar concentration is greater than what would be expected in the same volume of 100% juice not from concentrate, then “the amount of sugar that is in excess of what would be expected in the same amount of the same type of single strength juice must be declared as added sugars.”

It adds: "We excluded [from our definition of 'added sugars'] sugars from 100 percent fruit and vegetable juices, and sugars from certain fruit and vegetable juice concentrates used towards the total juice percentage label declaration under certain regulations, fruit juice concentrates used to formulate the fruit component of jellies, jams, and preserves under our standards of identity, and 100 percent juice concentrate sold directly to consumers (e.g. frozen orange juice concentrate)."

Food manufacturers remain sharply divided over the FDA's move to crack down on added sugar, with General Mills and other big names such as Kellogg and Unilever opposed; and Nestlé, Mars, and KIND LLC in favor.

How does processing impact whether fruit sugars must be declared as ‘added’?

As a general guide, if a fruit or vegetable is “processed in such a way that it no longer contains all of the components of the portion of a whole fruit or vegetable that is typically eaten (e.g., the pulp from the fruit has been removed) and the sugars have been concentrated,” then it counts as added sugar, said the agency.

Meanwhile, whole fruit, fruit pieces, dried fruit, pulps, and purees, which are "nutrient rich and maintain the basic properties of a fruit" when added to foods, are not considered to contain added sugars.

Fruit powders and pastes

So where does this leave fruit powders and pastes? 

It depends on how they have been processed, says the FDA, which indicates that a fruit powder "made by extracting and dehydrating the juice of the fruit" would be considered to be added sugar but says that a fruit powder "made by pulverizing a dehydrated whole fruit" would not be considered as added sugar.

"For this reason, manufacturers should consider whether the ingredient has been processed so that it no longer contains all of the components of the original portion of the whole fruit or vegetable that is typically eaten in addition to being concentrated."

  • Download the draft guidance HERE.
  • Stakeholders can submit comments on the draft guidance HERE (deadline March 6, 2017).

*The FSA definition of added sugars "includes sugars that are either added during the processing of foods, or are packaged as such, and include sugars (free, mono- and disaccharides), sugars from syrups and honey, and sugars from concentrated fruit or vegetable juices that are in excess of what would be expected from the same volume of 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice of the same type. The definition excludes fruit or vegetable juice concentrated from 100 percent fruit juice that is sold to consumers (e.g. frozen 100 percent fruit juice concentrate) as well as some sugars found in fruit and vegetable juices, jellies, jams, preserves, and fruit spreads."

Still confused? Read page 33980 of the Nutrition Facts Label Final Rule.


  • Remove ‘calories from fat’.
  • Declare ‘added sugars’ and include a percent daily value (DV) set at 10% of total energy intakes (ie 200 calories or 50g). Added sugars content must be indented under Total Sugars and prefaced with the word 'Includes’ followed by the amount in grams.
  • Require pre-approval for some fiber ingredients included in dietary fiber calculation.
  • Keep mandatory requirement to list calcium and iron, but make vitamins A & C voluntary.
  • Add mandatory requirement to list vitamin D and potassium.
  • Update reference values used to calculate % DVs of nutrients.
  • Update reference value for sodium from 2,400mg to 2,300mg.  
  • Make ‘calories’ more prominent.

Separately, the FDA is also tweaking serving sizes to better reflect real-life consumption behavior (who eats half a muffin washed down with half a can of energy drink?) so a serving of soda, for example, will be 12oz instead of 8oz. 

FDA resources for industry on changes to the Nutrition Facts panel

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