FDA reconsiders added sugar label for maple syrup, honey

FILE- In this March 9, 2016, file photo, a bottle of maple syrup are displayed at the Merrifield Farm and Sugar Shack in Gorham, Maine. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is reconsidering its plan to label pure maple syrup and honey as containing added sugars. Maple syrup producers had rallied against the plan, saying FDA’s upcoming requirement to update nutrition labels to tell consumers that pure maple syrup and honey contain added sugars was misleading, illogical and confusing and could hurt their industries. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is reconsidering its plan to require that pure maple syrup and honey be labeled as containing added sugars.

Maple syrup producers had rallied against the plan, saying the nutrition labels updates were misleading, illogical and confusing and could hurt their industries.

No sugar is added to pure maple syrup or honey. However, the FDA’s update would have defined maple syrup as an added sugar, both when used as a sweetener in the processing of other foods and as a stand-alone product.

The agency’s goal was to update the Nutrition Facts label on products to educate consumers about the amount of added sugars in foods based on government dietary guidelines that recommend no more than 10 percent of daily calories come from added sugars.

After receiving more than 3,000 comments on its draft plan, the FDA acknowledged that the labeling was confusing and that it would now come up with a revised approach for maple syrup and honey.

“The feedback that FDA has received is that the approach laid out in the draft guidance does not provide the clarity that the FDA intended. It is important to FDA that consumers are able to effectively use the new Nutrition Facts label to make informed, healthy dietary choices. The agency looks forward to working with stakeholders to devise a sensible solution,” the FDA said.

The American Honey Producers Association had said that the plan could lead to consumers wondering what’s being added to pure honey, when nothing is.

Its president, Kelvin Adee, said the only way to provide clarity to consumers is to exempt single-ingredient products like honey from the “added sugars” requirement.

In Vermont — the country’s largest producer of maple syrup — the congressional delegation and state’s attorney general urged the FDA commissioner to reconsider the added sugars label for maple syrup, with Attorney General T.J. Donovan calling on Vermonters to comment on the FDA’s plan.

“I applaud the FDA’s decision to hear Vermonters on this issue,” Donovan said Tuesday. “We all agree that consumers have a right to know what is in their food, especially when it comes to their health and safety,” he said. “And, we also agree that common sense is a virtue.”

Maple syrup producer Roger Brown, of Slopeside Syrup in Richmond, Vermont, has been a leading voice on the issue. He said the FDA’s response to the feedback is a good step.

“I applaud the FDA for acknowledging the relevance of the issue and the need to re-examine it,” he said. “I am grateful that this question and this issue has been a part of a pretty broad conversation and has generated a lot of support from the maple community, from Vermonters and maple fans around the country.

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