Insights into Challenges of Labeling “Added Sugar”

June 6, 2017 — Why hold a conference on sweetener systems?

Sweetness-enhancing components have long been added to recipes, as well as packaged foods and beverages. However, the perception of sweetness and the impact of any one sweetener ingredient is highly influenced by other ingredients in a food matrix. The need for up-to-date information on sweeteners by product developers has increased. This is because there have been ingredient technological advances; and because there is increased complexity in the sweetener systems used. Other factors include evolving consumer attitudes, progress in nutritional science and, lastly, changes in regulations.

Global Food Forums, Inc. launched its first Sweetener Systems Trends & Technologies Conference (since renamed Sweetener Systems Conference) on November 2, 2016, in
Lombard, Ill., USA. The event proved successful beyond expectations— with over 160 registrants and an abundance of very positive comments. A brief summary of the excellent presentations from this year’s program is provided here.

All presentations and/or adapted versions made available by the speakers are posted on Global Food Forums Inc’s store page.

Please consider attending our 2017 Sweetener Systems Conference, November 7th, at the Westin Hotel, Lombard, Ill., USA. 

The following is the first of the presentations from the “2016 Sweetener Systems Conference Summary,” sponsored by Orochem.

Insights into Challenges of Labeling “Added Sugar”

Although entailing but a small change to a food or beverage’s nutritional label itself, the FDA’s recently mandated label change to include “added sugar” poses considerable analytical challenges for processors. [For a larger version of chart, click on image.]

Dietary sugar reduction is a global health objective, as per the United Nations’ World Health Organization (WHO). Thus, the compliance challenges posed by the U.S. Food & Drug Agency’s (FDA) recently published requirement to include “added sugar” as a subhead to the line-item “sugars” on the nutritional label have global implications for all food regulatory agencies.

David Ellingson, MSc, Senior Research Chemist and Project Manager with Covance, an international research laboratory, addressed two issues that should be of primary concern:
1) Industry’s inability to discern between naturally present and added sugars; and
2) the need to establish requirements for dynamic sugar concentrations that vary as a function of processing and storage.

“The FDA regulation defines ‘added sugars’ as either free sugar (mono- and disaccharides), syrups or ‘sugars from concentrated fruit or vegetable juices that are in excess of what would be expected from the same volume of 100% fruit or vegetable juice of the same type,’” explained Ellingson.

There are four exceptions:
1) Fruit or vegetable juice concentrated from 100% juices sold to consumers;
2) fruit or vegetable juice concentrates used towards the total juice percentage label;
3) fruit juice concentrates used to formulate the fruit component of jellies, jams or preserves, or the fruit component of fruit spreads; and
4) lactose from milk.

“There are three high-level scenarios with respect to a product analysis: one being where all sugar is added; one being both natural and added; and a third where all sugars present are natural,” continued Ellingson.

“Typically, when we do an analysis for sugar in our labs, we are looking for these six: glucose, galactose, fructose, sucrose, maltose and lactose. We utilize HPLC and GC applications,” Ellingson noted. Whereas ion chromatography with pulsed amperometric detection is becoming the norm for HPLC-type applications, “more robust” gas chromatography techniques are still popular—even though they require derivatization of sugars prior to analysis. For quick, in-line production screening, a technology such as Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy may be quite adequate. However, he stressed, none of these techniques is capable of distinguishing between “natural” and “added” sugars!

“If a more forensic analysis is needed, laboratories have available a range of analytical techniques to identify the source of a sugar on a qualitative level,” explained Ellingson. Although more sophisticated isotope analyses can distinguish between C12 (found in cane and corn sugars) and C13 (found in maple and beet sugars), they cannot pinpoint the source origin of all sugars. Nonetheless, isotope analyses do offer limited use in identifying adulterants in products and ingredients.”

Continued Ellingson, “By farthe most difficult analytical challenge is when fruits or vegetables that have innate amounts of sugars are mixed with ‘added’ sugars, such as sweetener syrups, to improve taste or sweetness.” This includes products such as juice drinks, breakfast cereals and yogurt beverages.

Providing analytical chemists with a product’s formula in advance allows them to analyze the areas under chromatographic peaks and roughly estimate total sugar contents. If the chromatographic profiles conform to the formula provided, all may be well. However, it is much more difficult to determine whether a food, beverage or ingredient has been adulterated—and by how much—using only such techniques. Analysis of carbon isotope profiles and other impurity markers can flag possible adulteration—but not always.

An additional complication is when non-enzymatic browning, fermentation or other processes affect total sugar content during processing or storage. This is an important consideration for heat-treated products rich in amino acids, sweeteners, and fruit and vegetable ingredients, such as soups or sauces.

When asked a question about how one could establish a label declaration for sugar content for products exhibiting starch breakdown during storage due to acid hydrolysis, Ellingson allowed that this could be a complicating factor: At what point in the process or retail distribution of such products can an accurate determination of sugar content and profile be made? Perhaps a petition to the FDA for a labeling exception would be merited in such cases; the FDA regulations do allow companies to petition for exceptions.

[Note: The final, published FDA “added sugar” labeling regulation can be found in: FDA Federal Register/Vol. 81, No. 103/Friday, May 27, 2016/Rules and Regulations].

“Insights into Challenges of Labeling ‘Added’ Sugar,” David Ellingson, MSc, Senior Research Chemist and Project Manager, Covance, David.Ellingson@covance.com

Posted on:June 6, 2017

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