Do you know what is in the foods you eat? Most of us are only vaguely aware. Nutritional labelling, mandatory on many foods, can help lead to a better understanding. Do you find nutrition labels on honey jars better informs you of your dietary choice?

Honey labels may soon be subject to a significant change. Natural sugar foods such as honey  and maple syrup, under the new proposed U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)  nutrition labelling, may need to add the words “added sugar” to their honey nutrient label. The FDA nutrition label changes are part of a campaign to educate consumers about excess sugar in our diet.

Honey of course doesn’t have any “added sugar” so why would a honey label have to have “added sugar”? Well it turns out that in FDA ‘speak’ added sugar means sugar added to our diet in excess of what’s nutritionally appropriate. Strangely the FDA does not use “added sugar” to mean sugar added to food.  Does this sound strange?  It turns out this language change would be necessary because the FDA deemed honey as not “nutrient rich,” like other naturally sugary foods, which do not need the wording “added sugar” on their package labels.

However rather than change this unusual interpretation, FDA, in a draft guidance released this past February, proposed that pure, single-ingredient maple syrup and honey  could have a footnote added to their labels clarifying that their sugars were naturally occurring. But the wording “added sugar” would still be required.

FDA advertised a 6 month comment period on the footnoted label proposal. The American Honey Producers and American Beekeeping Federation alerted members to provide comments. OSBA did as well.  By the mid-June deadline period over 3000 comments were sent to FDA. Both beekeepers and maple syrup producers pointed out that their products were not like foods that added sugar for taste or consumer appeal and the footnote compromise might be confusing and misleading and might even erode consumer confidence in their pure, natural products.

According to a press release of June 19 the “FDA recognizes the complexity of this issue and is grateful for the feedback it has received. The agency plans to take these comments into consideration to swiftly formulate a revised approach that makes key information available to consumers in a workable way….The agency looks forward to working with stakeholders to devise a sensible solution.”

So dysfunctional as Washington is these days, we are left with only not much more than a promise of taking comments “into consideration”. The FDA gave no indication it intended to eliminate the requirement so “added sugar” might need to included. We will have to wait and see….

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