Congress Chastises Government For Lumping Maple Syrup In With Sugar

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Thomas Phippen Thomas Phippen is acting editor in chief at the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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A bipartisan group of lawmakers are coming to the defense of honey and maple syrup producers worried that they will be collateral damage in the government’s war on sugar.

In an effort to curb America’s unhealthy sugar addiction, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has worked for years on a rule that will require food makers to mark sweetened products with an “added sugars” label.

The recent draft of the proposal, however, includes maple syrup and honey in the products that would need to be labeled as containing added sweetener. Such a rule has the risk of misleading consumers, industry leaders say. For example, a bottle of maple syrup, or a bear-shaped bottle of clover honey that has the “added sugars” label would suggest the product is not pure.

“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 group of lawmakers said in a letter to FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb Friday.

“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 letter, spearheaded by Vermont Democratic Rep. Peter Welch and Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, was signed by a group that includes a diverse group of 20 Senators and Congressmen — from Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders to Montana Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte. It comes during the FDA’s comment period on the draft guidelines for industries complying with the sugar rule.

The FDA’s interpretation that the rule means all products containing sugar should be labeled with the “added sugars” sticker rankled pure maple and honey producers. (RELATED: Media Revives Fears Global Warming Will Make Maple Syrup An ‘Extinct’ Condiment)

Natural maple syrup producers compete against products like “Mrs. Butterworth, Log Cabin – whatever,” which have sugar added to them, Roger Brown, Slopeside Syrup, in Richmond, Vt., told NPR. Those products would naturally have the added sugar label, but the FDA decided that the added sugar label to apply to sugars added to a person’s diet.

“It just became apparent that the FDA wasn’t going to sort of bow to reality, or bow to a standard interpretation of the English language,” Brown said. “And so was going to continue to say, ‘no, added sugar’ doesn’t mean sugar added to food, it means sugar added to your diet in excess of what’s nutritionally appropriate.”

The final rule was released in May 2016, but the FDA has released drafts of compliance guidelines, the latest of which in February included Large manufacturers would be required to comply with the labeling rules by Jan. 1, 2020, and small businesses would have until Jan. 1 2021.

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