FDA Commissioner Gottlieb Indicates Modification of Requirement for “Added Sugar” Declaration on Pure Maple Syrup and Honey; Details are Forthcoming – Sweet!

September 17, 2018By Riëtte van Laack

One of the main components of FDA’s 2016 final rule to update the Nutrition Facts is the mandatory requirement for a declaration and a daily value (DV) for “added sugar” for both sugars added to processed foods as well as foods “packaged as such,” including a bag of table sugar, jar of honey or container of maple syrup.  With respect to the single ingredient foods that are/contain sugars when “packaged as such,” FDA has acknowledged concerns by producers that this new labeling information may inadvertently lead consumers to think their single ingredient foods may actually contain added table sugar or corn syrup if “added sugars” are listed on the label. As we previously reported, FDA published a draft guidance in February 2018 in an effort to address this concern. In the draft guidance, FDA announced that it would allow the use of a symbol in the Nutrition Facts box on pure maple syrup and pure honey linking the added sugars daily value (DV) to a statement that would advise consumers about the meaning of the “added sugars” declaration.  Not surprisingly, FDA received a large number of comments on the draft guidance, many of which contended that FDA’s proposed approach would not prevent consumers from erroneously concluding that containers of pure maple syrup and pure honey contain sugar as an additional ingredient (and therefore are economically adulterated).

In June, just one day after closing of the docket for the draft guidance, FDA issued a statement that it would work with stakeholders to “swiftly formulate a revised approach that makes key information available to consumers in a workable way.”

Just recently, Commissioner Gottlieb issued what seems to be an interim response. On Sept. 6, 2018, the Commissioner announced that FDA is drafting the “final guidance, which [FDA] anticipate[s] issuing by early next year.” According to the Commissioner, this final guidance will provide an alternative under which, presumably, no declaration of added sugars will be required.  However, the Commissioner adds that FDA is “not considering changes to the required percent daily value for these products.”  No further details were provided.  How this will work remains to be seen.  For now, the manufacturers of single ingredient foods such as sugar, maple syrup and honey can be expected to hold off on revising their labels and wait for the final guidance to be issued in early 2019.