US: Mars backs labels for added sugar
The maker of the world’s best-selling chocolate candy is advocating that people eat less added sugar.
Mars, maker of M&M’s and Snickers, is throwing its support behind a proposal by US regulators to include measurements of added sugar in the mandated Nutrition Facts labels for food, a move that bucks broad opposition to the proposal by big food companies.
Sugar is currently one of the few nutrients that doesn’t have a recommended consumption level on US food labels, because the FDA hasn’t proposed a specific limit. Critics have blamed pressure from food companies. The US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s (DGAC) February recommendation was its first for how much added sugar should be consumed.
In a letter submitted to government officials last week, Mars said it also backs calls by the WHO and the US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which counsels the federal government, recommending that people should limit added sugar to 10% of daily calories.
“It might appear to be counterintuitive, but if you dig down a bit more, we know candy itself is not a diet,” said Dave Crean, global head of research and development at Mars. “It shouldn’t be consumed too often, and having transparency of how much it should be consumed is actually quite helpful to consumers.”
“One of the most important ways we can help is by giving consumers clear information about what’s in the products we manufacture so they can make informed dietary choices.”
The move by Mars is a savvy one as major food manufacturers and restaurant companies aim to have an increasingly open dialogue about food with consumers. Americans have migrated away from processed foods in favor of fresh fruits and vegetables and meats, and also shown increasing skepticism of established, mass-produced brands. The changing attitudes, led by the Millennial generation, has broadly changed sales trends at grocery store chains, restaurants, and food manufacturers.
Privately-held Mars is weighing in on nutritional labeling ahead of the key 2015 DGAC Report. Those guidelines, which were first issued in 1980 and updated every five years, are used by nutrition educators and government agencies.
Mars, in a statement sent to the DGAC, said it was supporting added sugars labeling so consumers could understand the relationship between added and total sugars in the context of their daily caloric needs.
What exactly are added sugars? They are the sugars and syrups put in foods during preparation or processing, according to the American Heart Association, and are found in candy, cakes, cookies and soft drinks. They differ from naturally occurring sugars, which are found naturally in foods such as fruit and milk.
The more upfront conversation about sugar on the behalf of Mars is well timed, as consumers are increasingly worrying about their intake of sugar over other food ingredients.
“People are paying less attention to the basics on nutrition labels like sodium, calories, fats, and carbs, and more attention to sugar and protein,” said Darren Seifer, NPD food and beverage industry analyst, in a research report last year.
Source: Wall Street Journal; Fortune
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