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June 20, 2018

FDA reconsidering ‘added sugar’ label on pure maple syrup and honey

Courtesy / Office of U.S. Sen. Angus King
Courtesy / Office of U.S. Sen. Angus King
U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, testifies on the floor of the Senate Wednesday, that a proposal to add the label "added sugar" to natural honey and maple products was inaccurate and would harm those industries in Maine and nationwide.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is reconsidering its labeling proposal that would require labels on pure maple syrup and pure honey containers to include the phrase "added sugar."

The reconsideration comes after a push by Maine's congressional delegation and other lawmakers to get the FDA to exempt honey and maple products from the "added sugar" label.

In a June 19 press release, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine District 1, applauded the FDA's decision to reconsider the labeling requirement, saying it would have been "confusing and misleading" to require the "added sugar" warning to appear on natural honey and maple products.

"The label would have eroded consumers' confidence in these pure, natural products," she said. "The label was also an affront of sorts to producers in Maine, who take great pride and care in the purity of what they bottle."

FDA hits ‘pause’ button

"This is simply common sense — if sugar is not added to the product, it should not need a label for 'added sugar,'" U.S. Sen. Angus King said in a June 19 press release. "These are multi-million dollar industries for Maine and I hope to work with the FDA as they craft a new policy that gives consumers the facts they need without harming our pure products."

Both Pingree and King were signatories on a letter sent by a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb insisting he exempt pure maple syrup and honey from the new "added sugars" disclosure requirements.

"While we support FDA's effort to ensure the label remains scientifically valid and helpful to consumers, we are concerned about the misleading impression that an 'added sugars' disclosure on single ingredient maple and honey products would create," the lawmakers wrote. "An 'added sugars' declaration on single ingredient maple and honey products may signal to consumers that these pure products — such as a bottle of maple syrup or jar of honey — actually contain added sweeteners such as table sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. This is patently false."

The FDA's proposed new guidelines for nutrition facts labeling call on manufacturers to include the amount of "added sugars" as well "total sugars." In draft guidance released in February, the FDA proposed that pure, single-ingredient maple syrup and honey had to list all their sugar content as "added sugar" with a footnote that it was naturally occurring.

But the pushback received from lawmakers and others appears to have persuaded FDA to reconsider its guidelines for pure, single-ingredient maple syrup and honey.

According to a June 19 news release from the agency, "FDA recognizes the complexity of this issue and is grateful for the feedback it has received, including more than 3,000 comments received during the comment period on the draft guidance that closed on June 15. The agency plans to take these comments into consideration to swiftly formulate a revised approach that makes key information available to consumers in a workable way."

Earlier this month, News Center Maine reported that maple syrup producers in Maine are furious over the proposed change.

"It's just all-around a lie. We don't add any sugar," MaryAnne Kinney, a state legislator who with her husband runs Kinney Sugarhouse in Knox, told News Center Maine.

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