Healthy Food America, a nonprofit institution that drives change in policy and industry practice to ensure equal and easy access to nutritious food, held a working group in December of last year with 13 different public and private institutions (FDA- CFSAN, USDA - CNPP, Ohio State, UNC to name a few). The focus of the symposium was to discuss efforts to improve the quality and timeliness of added sugars data in the US.
Added sugars and their presence in the American food supply continues to generate interest and concern, mainly due to two factors:
- New NLEA Regulations- the new Nutritional Facts Panel will require disclosure of added sugars by July 26th, 2018, currently there is no standardized methodology for the calculation of added sugar presence; there is a need to create an industry standard.
- Nutritional Impact on Disease Rates- there is a correlation between regular consumption of sugary food and the presence of Type 2 Diabetes (a 26% increase1) as well as coronary heart disease (20% higher2)- identification of products high in added sugars is necessary to curb the increase in disease awareness
However, in order to construct effective policies which encourage the consumption of healthy alternatives and methodologies that promote consistent reporting, there is a need to accurately identify the amount of added sugars in a given product and its frequency of sale. This represents the crux of the issue: disparate data systems which do not align nor communicate with one another- various institutions have fragments of picture. Enter Healthy Food America’s symposium on added sugars, its’ collaborative group of researchers, and Label Insight’s Open Data access to a database of rich product content.
By opening up lines of communication, collaborating on joint initiatives and providing open access to data, the public-private partnership of the symposium’s 13 participating institutions is a great step forward to expedite change in the food industry. Researchers, policy creators and data suppliers were all able to discuss their limitations and challenges in identifying the presence, consumption and impact of added sugars in our nation’s food supply. The open dialogue provided critical feedback for each party in order to take corrective action, resulting in 3 specific calls to action:
- Develop standard operating procedures to validate the algorithms and approaches being used to estimate adding sugars.
- The working group should collectively make requests to nutrition facts panel data providers to improve data quality.
- Ask the National Academy of Medicine Food Forum to convene a conversation/workshop or consensus study on added sugars data quality, including methods and standards.
A direct response to this call to action and the symposium on added sugars is a joint initiative between 3 research institutions who intend to develop a peer reviewed journal discussing the accurate calculation of added sugars within food.
Little by little, we change the world; what only started with a discussion has led to the connection of 13 of our nation’s most knowledgeable research institutions who have placed the health of Americans at the forefront of their concern- the implications of this collaboration could positively impact the health of America and prolong the lives of its people.
Joint initiatives such as Healthy Food America’s symposium on added sugars aligns with the mission of Label Insight’s Open Data initiative: to provide access to accurate and comprehensive food data to help positively impact the understanding of the foods which we consume.
To learn more about Label Insight’s Open Data initiative, please visit: https://www.labelinsight.com/open-data
1Malik VS, Popkin BM, Bray GA, Despres JP, Willett WC, Hu FB. Sugar-sweetened beverages and risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis. Diabetes Care. 2010;33:2477-83.
2de Koning L, Malik VS, Kellogg MD, Rimm EB, Willett WC, Hu FB. Sweetened beverage consumption, incident coronary heart disease, and biomarkers of risk in men. Circulation. 2012;125:1735-41, S1.