A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics shows that consumers may struggle to understand food nutrition panels that include "added sugars."
Current food labels must state the amount of sugars, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed changing the labels to add a line under sugars that breaks out "added sugars" to help consumers understand how much of the sweetener is naturally occurring versus how much is added to the product.
To see how consumers might interpret new labels with "added sugars," the researchers first interviewed 27 adults in Los Angeles, Baltimore, and Atlanta. Consumers interpreted the new labels in a variety of ways, including some who thought the "added sugars" were in addition to "sugars" shown in the line above on the label, others who understood that it meant the manufacturer put extra sugar in the product, and some who found products with "added sugars" less desirable.
Then, the researchers surveyed 1,088 men and women to see how they currently used nutrition facts panels and find out if they could accurately interpret "added sugars" displayed in formats that might be adopted in future labels. Consumers who first viewed the label without any "added sugars" line correctly tallied the total amount of sugar in the food 92% of the time. When they saw a label with "added sugars" indented on a line below "sugars," they were correct 55% of the time. And, if they first looked at a label with "added sugars" indented on a line below "total sugars," 66% of them got it right.
Even among consumers who said they frequently read food labels at the store, about 45% of them incorrectly identified the amount of sugar when they first looked at the label with separate lines for "sugars" and "added sugars."