WASHINGTON, June 29, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- The Sugar Association today released a new consumer research report showing grocery shoppers are confused about the use of sugar substitutes in packaged food. While once limited to use as tabletop sweeteners and ingredients in diet foods, alternative sweeteners can now be found in a variety of consumer products including breads, cereals, granola bars, yogurt, ice cream, flavored milk, and children's beverages. 1 Yet, current labeling practices do not clearly disclose their presence in consumer products. Participants in the nationally-representative survey preferred additional labeling disclosures by food companies as a remedy for the lack of transparency on labels for low- and no- calorie sweeteners.
"This research shows consumers are interested in knowing what is in their foods and realize that additional, and non-misleading, information is needed for them to make informed decisions about the food products they purchase and consume," said Courtney Gaine, PhD, RD, President and CEO of the Sugar Association. "This data reinforces our decision to file a Citizen Petition with the FDA asking the agency to extend labeling transparency to the growing range of alternative sweeteners in the food supply."
Key data points in the research supporting labeling for low- and no- calorie sweeteners, conducted by Quadrant Strategies for the Sugar Association, show:
- 76% of consumers think it is important to know if their food contains sugar substitutes.
- 73% of parents think it's important to know the amount of sugar substitutes in their children's food.
- 63% of the time, consumers fail to recognize sugar substitutes as sweetening ingredients used in food and beverages.
- More than 69% of consumers believe that products labeled "reduced sugar" or "no sugar added" are lower-calorie products.
- When shown a specific product package that states "0 grams of sugar" and "Naturally Sweetened, Nothing Artificial" on the front, 54% of consumers stated they would not expect to find sugar substitutes (note: this sample product indeed contains the sweetener stevia leaf extract).
- 66% of consumers think it's important that food companies be required to clearly identify sugar substitutes as 'sweeteners' in ingredient lists.
Read the full research report here.
Information about sugar substitutes is just as important to consumers as information about added sugars. Food labeling is intended to help consumers make informed decisions, yet current labeling regulations fail to provide consumers accurate and clear information about the use of low- and no- calorie sweeteners.
The Sugar Association's FDA Citizen Petition, filed on June 3, 2020, asks the FDA to require the following changes to food labeling by issuing official industry guidance supported by the Agency's enforcement discretion:
- Add the term "Sweetener" in parentheses after the name of all non-nutritive sweeteners in the ingredient list.
- For children's food and beverages, indicate the type and quantity of non-nutritive sweeteners, in milligrams per serving, on the front of food packages.
- For products making a sugar content claim (i.e. No/Low/Reduced Sugar), require the disclosure, "Sweetened with [name of Sweetener(s)]" beneath the claim.
- Disclose the potential gastrointestinal side effects from the consumption of sugar alcohols and some sugar substitutes in foods at the lowest observed effect levels.
- Ensure all sugar content claims related to sugar and sugar substitutes are truthful and non-misleading.
"Consumers deserve to know what is in their food, and these changes, when enacted, will provide shoppers with complete transparency for all sweeteners used in foods and beverages," concluded Dr. Gaine.
- Sylvetsky, A. C., & Rother, K. I. (2016). Trends in the consumption of low-calorie sweeteners. Physiology & behavior, 164(Pt B), 446–450. doi:10.1016/j.physbeh.2016.03.030.
The Sugar Association, founded in 1943, is the scientific voice of the U.S. sugar industry. The association is committed to making a difference by continuously supporting scientific research and sharing its knowledge that there's more to sugar by increasing consumer understanding of and confidence in the role that sugar plays in a nutritious, balanced and enjoyable diet. The Sugar Association represents nearly 12,000 beet and cane sugar growers, as well as processors and refiners of sugar. The U.S. sugar industry generates 142,000 jobs in 22 states and contributes $20 billion to the economy annually. For more information, visit www.sugar.org, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and connect with us on Facebook.
SOURCE The Sugar Association