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Maple, honey producers not sweet on added sugars label

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Containers of maple syrup, with nutrition facts on their labels are lined up on a table today at Morse Farm Sugarworks in East Montpelier, Vt. Maple syrup and honey producers aren’t too sweet on a plan to label their natural products as containing added sugars. The FDA plans to require updated nutrition labels for products that would say that pure maple syrup and honey contain added sugars.

EAST MONTPELIER, Vt. >> Producers of pure maple syrup and honey aren’t sweet on a plan to label their pure natural products as containing added sugars.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will be requiring updated nutrition labels for products that are expected to say that pure maple syrup and honey contain added sugars, which the producers and officials say is misleading and confusing and could hurt their industries.

“There are no added sugars. Maple is a pure product,” said U.S. Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont, the top maple producing state in the country. “And added sugars to a consumer denotes corn syrup or some other added elements that are not natural,” he said. A lot of consumers don’t want added sugar, the Democrat said. “They want pure products, nothing more so than maple syrup.”

Maple syrup comes right from the trees and from the soils, said Tom Morse of Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks in Montpelier today.

“And we just refine it, and we market it, and we keep the quality as high as we possibly can. It’s 67 percent maple sugar and that’s what it is, nothing more, nothing less,” he said.

To address industry concerns, the FDA has suggested that producers could use a symbol after the added sugars daily value that would direct consumers to elsewhere on the label where they could say these sugars occur naturally in the maple syrup or honey.

FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said he has made nutrition one of his top priorities, and the Nutrition Facts label hasn’t been meaningfully updated in decades.

“We’ve made it our goal to increase consumer awareness of the quantity of added sugars in food products consistent with recent dietary guideline recommendations. The new label also contains the new daily value for added sugars, so consumers can better understand how foods with added sugars can fit into a healthy dietary pattern,” he said in a statement released in March.

Large manufacturers would have to comply by Jan. 1, 2020, and smaller manufacturers by Jan. 1, 2021, according to the FDA’s proposal.

The label with the symbol is still confusing, producers say.

“It’s clear that when applied broadly this is an example of well-intentioned federal regulation that is totally illogical when applied in this context,” said Roger Brown of Slopestyle Maple in Richmond.

It could lead to consumers wondering what’s being added to pure honey, when nothing is, according to the American Honey Producers Association. Both industries say they work hard to protect their pure products from adulteration.

“Honey is a pure sugar so there’s no need for added sugars,” said Chris Hiatt, the association’s vice president. “So it’s misleading the consumer.”

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