April 3, 2017

How Sweet It Is

To poorly paraphrase William Shakespeare: A sugar by any other name is just as sweet.  That’s exactly why nutrition labels in Canada have changed.
Nutrition label laws require all ingredients to be listed on a product by weight from highest to lowest.  However, when it comes to sugar, there are multiple forms such as glucose-fructose, honey, malted barely, fancy molasses, etc.  Each form of sugar is listed as a separate ingredient making it challenging for consumers to have a full appreciation of how much sugar a serving actually contains. 
Under new rules, nutrition labels will group all forms of sugar in brackets after the common name, “Sugar”.  The various forms will continue to be listed in descending order by weight. Combining all sugar in this way may cause the sugar component to be listed earlier on in the ingredient list. 
Figure 1
 Food Labelling Figure 8 EN
Where previously only grams of sugar per serving were listed, the new rules require a percentage of daily value (% of DV) to also be included.  To further help consumers understand what this means, a footnote is to be included stating that 5% DV is a little and 15% of DV is a lot.
Figure 2
Enjoying a meal that includes sugar is not a bad thing – many foods naturally include sugar and make a meal tasty.  The challenge is to limit how much added sugar is in your diet.  A 2015 study 1 of more than 40,000 pre-packaged foods found that two-thirds of them contained at least one form of added sugar.  While the new guidelines do not separate natural vs. added sugar, combining all sugars in one category is a step in the right direction.
Sugar is a carbohydrate from which we derive energy. An over-abundance of carbohydrates can lead to increased risk of health problems such as diabetes, obesity, heart conditions, etc.  The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada recommends limiting the consumption of added sugars to 10% of daily caloric intake.
To find out more about nutrition labels, visit healthycanadians.gc.ca

Figures 1 & 2 © All rights reserved.  Food Labeling Changes. Healthy Canadians, 2016.  Adapted and reproduced with permission from the Minster of Health, 2017.

 1 Added sugar in the packaged foods and beverages available at a major Canadian retailer in 2015: a descriptive analysis, Rachel B. Acton, BSc, Lana Vanderlee, PhD, Erin P. Hobin, PhD, David Hammond, PhD

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