The Food and Drug Administration will reconsider requiring “added-sugar” labeling on pure maple syrup and honey after receiving thousands of comments on the proposed change.

Producers of maple syrup and honey were upset by the requirement for an added-sugar labeling, saying it would be confusing and could have a devastating effect on their businesses. The FDA in February released new guidelines for nutrition facts labeling that requires manufactures to include the amounts of both added and total sugars.

Maple syrup and honey are naturally high in sugar – so high it triggers the new requirement, which was designed to help consumers follow updated federal nutrition guidelines and alert them to excess sugar in their diets that could contribute to health problems such as obesity and diabetes.

In a constituent update issued Tuesday, the FDA said it recognized the complexity of the added-sugar labeling issue and will review the feedback it has received, including more than 3,000 comments. The agency will work with stakeholders to devise a “sensible solution,” according to the update.

“The feedback that FDA has received is that the approach laid out in the draft guidance does not provide the clarity that the FDA intended. It is important to FDA that consumers are able to effectively use the new Nutrition Facts label to make informed, healthy dietary choices,” the update read.

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, said the added-sugar labels could affect consumer confidence in maple syrup and honey products and raised concerns about the labeling during an appropriations hearing in April and during multiple conversations with FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.

“I conveyed to (Gottlieb) that putting added sugar on a label will create a lot of consumer confusion,” Pingree said Tuesday in a phone interview from Washington, D.C. “There was just no common sense in their plan and we wanted to make sure they understood that. You want the USDA and the FDA to be helpful to farmers and consumers. The last thing you want is a ruling that works against the products people are selling.”

Pingree said the label was “an affront of sorts” to producers in Maine who take pride in the purity of the maple syrup and honey they bottle. She said she worried that the added-sugar label could be especially confusing with honey because there are people who sell “fraudulent” honey made of sugar and water.

The FDA has already tried to address industry concerns by tweaking the label with a symbol appearing after the added-sugars daily value that directs consumers to a footnote reading: “All of these sugars are naturally occurring in honey.” The same would apply to maple syrup.

The FDA did not indicate Tuesday how long it would take to formulate a revised approach, but said it would work “swiftly” to take comments into consideration.

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: grahamgillian

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