2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans: In Support of Limiting and Labeling Added Sugar

March 25, 2015 | 11:53 am
Deborah Bailin
Former contributor

Yesterday morning, I took a detour from my usual routine. Instead of strolling the 2 miles from my house to UCS’s office on K Street in Washington, DC, I hopped on the metro and rode up to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. There I met two other UCS researchers to attend a public hearing on the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s scientific report with one consistent message: that we support the committee’s recommendations. Below is a copy of my testimony.

“Thank you for this opportunity to speak. My name is Deborah Bailin, and I am an analyst in the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. I join my colleagues Lindsey Haynes-Maslow and Doug Boucher who are also speaking today, respectively, on healthy food systems and sustainability. I will be speaking on added sugars.

The Center for Science and Democracy works to expose misinformation campaigns, protect scientists from harassment, defend our nation’s science-based public health and environmental laws, and ensure public access to independent scientific information.

We strongly support the DGAC’s recommendation that Americans should limit added sugar consumption to a maximum of 10% of their daily calories. We also support the Nutrition Facts panel listing added sugars on a separate line from total sugars in both grams and teaspoons.

Myself and Lindsey Haynes-Maslow live-tweeting the hearing.

Myself and Lindsey Haynes-Maslow live-tweeting the hearing.

Studies increasingly point to sugar overconsumption as a major contributing factor in rising risks for metabolic syndrome, including type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. These risks are disproportionately affecting our youth and low income and minority communities, and our nation is bearing the burden of the increasing healthcare costs associated with treating these diet-related chronic diseases.

Broad support exists in the public health community and among concerned citizens for limiting and labeling added sugar. This spring, the Center generated more than 26,600 signatures on a petition which we will deliver as a public comment to the agencies. These signatures represent the public’s approval of the DGAC’s recommendations on sugar. Additionally, we prompted more than 760 public comments from health professionals and food and nutrition scientists, representing support for the DGAC’s scientific-process and urging HHS and USDA to uphold the same standards.

Two reports the Center released in 2014—“Added Sugar, Subtracted Science” and “Sugar-coating Science”—document how food companies and trade associations attempt to influence food policy and to manipulate consumer choice. We found that sugar interests within the food industry have a consistent record of attempting to cast doubt on the body of scientific evidence linking sugar overconsumption to health problems. We also found that sugar interests often prioritize profits over public health in their efforts to influence consumer choice by marketing sugar-laden products as healthy—including products like bread, cereal, and yogurt that often contain surprisingly large amounts of added sugar.

In this regard, voluntary labeling efforts are insufficient. Such efforts are not uniformly implemented, have been shown to confuse consumers, and do not list added sugars. They highlight what food companies want us to know, not necessarily what we need to know.

I urge you to utilize the science on sugar’s health impacts and include strong language in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines encouraging Americans to limit sugar in their diets by restricting their daily intake of added sugars to a maximum of 10% of daily calories. To follow such advice, the public also needs an added sugars declaration on the Nutrition Facts panel. Such guidance would be consistent with the science on sugar and health, allow the public to make more informed choices, and help to promote health for all Americans. Thank you.”