by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Sugars

Sep 25 2015

Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning): Delicious!

Here’s a sweet conclusion to this week’s sugar theme (#5):











How do bakeries do this?  I have no idea.

But this particular bakery at first refused to make the cake.

It worried about potential copyright violation (I’m not kidding).

Well, it’s too late to sue.  The evidence has been consumed.

Sep 24 2015

Sugar politics: A roundup of items

This week’s post about sugars #4:

Sugar politics is in the news and I’ve been collecting items about it.

  • U.K. consumers say sugar is their #1 food issue, beating out waste and salt.
  • The Florida sugar industry is giving generously to Republican presidential candidates.
  • Australian sugar growers are pushing for greater access to the U.S. sugar market through the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement, and are in part responsible for the impasse in signing it (this is not necessarily a bad thing).
  • U.S. candy makers are not happy about the suspension agreements brought against Mexican sugar imports.  These, they say, have raised the price of sugar.  Ordinarily, under NAFTA, Mexico is allowed to ship as much sugar to the U.S. as it likes, with no tariffs.  But Mexico agreed to new trade caps in return for not having to deal with antidumping investigations (isn’t trade fun?).
  • The Washington Post has a good summary of where we are on putting Added Sugars on food labels.
  • The FDA will take comments specifically on its Nutrition Facts panel studies, including controversial research on how well consumers would understand an added sugars label, the agency announced in a Federal Register notice.  The comment period is extended to October 15.
  • The FDA’s move follows a letter from law firm Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz that criticized the agency for not taking comments on its consumer research.
Sep 23 2015

The benefits of eating candy. Who knew?

This week’s sugar item #3

John Downs, the president of the National Confectioners Association has an editorial (note: sponsored) in Politico announcing the NCA’s new campaign to convince Americans of the benefits of eating candy.

Candy is a special treat that has played an important role in cultural traditions, seasonal celebrations and family occasions here in the U.S. and around the world. But some consumers might not know that there is much more that goes into this honest, affordable, fun and transparent treat.

What more?  The economic benefits, of course.  Here’s the Infographic:

The press release highlights the benefits.

The confectionery industry directly employs 55,000 people in the United States, and more than 400,000 jobs in agriculture, retail, transportation and other industries rely in part on the sale of confections for their livelihood.  For every job that is created in confectionery another seven are supported in related industries, which means that candy drives a multiplier effect of 1:7 or an impact of 700 percent.

Sugar?  Calories?  Tooth decay?  Obesity?

Never mind.

Sep 21 2015

Sugars for toddlers: an invitational roundtable from The Sugar Association

This week, I’m going to be posting items about sugar politics.

Item on sugars #1:

Funny thing.  I was not invited to this event, but someone who was invited passed along the invitation.  You too will be sad you weren’t invited.

I am contacting you at the request of Dr. Courtney Gaine, VP of Scientific Affairs from The Sugar Association, regarding an invitational roundtable on The Role of Sugars in Supporting a Nutrient-dense Diet for Toddlers, 12 to 24 Months.  It will be sponsored by the University of Colorado, Anschutz Medical Campus, Department of Pediatrics, chaired by Dr. Ronald Kleinman from Harvard Medical School, co-chaired by Dr. Frank Greer from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine, and facilitated by Sylvia Rowe.  The roundtable is supported by an unrestricted educational grant from the Association….

Roundtable Objectives

  • Provide a forum to discuss the science and research voids on the role of sugars as a strategy that may help parents successfully transition their older infants and toddlers (12 to 24 months) from complementary infant foods to consuming a variety of nutrient-dense foods from the family table.
  • Generate potential research ideas and questions on this topic for future guidance on the feeding of young children, including birth to 24 months, which is scheduled for integration into the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
  • Create the impetus to extend this research to public-private partnerships with industry, academy and the government.

Proposed Topic Areas 

  • The roundtable has been tentatively divided into these 5 topic areas: 1) transitional toddler feeding and nutrition policy; 2) physiology; 3) sugars in toddler feeding practices; 4) parent-feeding strategies: emerging science; and 5) the research path forward….


The Sugar Association will reimburse you for all reasonable travel expenses, plus a $2,000 honorarium for your review of abstracts and presentations, which you will receive in mid-October, and your participation in the 1 ½ day roundtable.

This requires some translation.  I may be over-interpreting here, but as I see it, the Sugar Association is paying academics $2000 to implicitly endorse:

  • Promoting the use of sugar as a way to get toddlers to eat healthier foods.
  • Making sure the 2020 dietary guidelines say nothing about the need for kids to eat less sugar (we don’t even have the guidelines for 2015 yet).
  • Making sure that government agencies don’t advise or set policies to encourage eating less sugar.


Jul 27 2015

Our endlessly arcane and unhealthy sugar policy

While we are on the topic of sugars (see previous post) I saw this ad on the Hagstrom Report.  I wondered what it was about.

I went to the American Sugar Alliance website to look.

Legislation introduced by Congressman Ted Yoho (R-FL) to end global sugar subsidies in favor of a free market has picked up key endorsements in recent weeks, including many conservative organizations and numerous lawmakers.

Yoho’s bill would instruct the administration to target the foreign sugar subsidies that are distorting world prices. Once foreign subsidies are eradicated, U.S. sugar policy would be eliminated.

If I understand this correctly, Congressman Yoho is offering a trade:  If foreign governments of sugar-producing countries will stop subsidizing their countries’ sugar producers, we will stop charging tariffs on the sugar we import from them and we will end our quota system for sugar beets, both of which keep U.S. sugar prices considerably higher than world market prices.

For decades, U.S. Presidents have pledged to fix sugar policies (see my post explaining how they work), but they always get stopped by the well organized interests of the U.S. sugar industry—the producers of cane and beet sugar.

Current policies result in higher sugar prices for consumers but since the higher costs average out to only about $10 per person per year, nobody gets too upset about them.

European sugar quotas are supposed to end this year.  Whether they will is uncertain.

But wait!  Maybe higher sugar prices are a Good Thing.  Higher prices generally discourage consumption.

Clearly, these higher prices are not high enough.  This graph shows trends in the availability (not really consumption) of sugars in the food supply per capita, in pounds per year.


The good news: Total sugars have been declining in the food supply since about 2000 and now “only” amount to about 100 pounds per person per year.

Most of the drop is in the availability of cane and beet sugars (sucrose), now down to just over 40 pounds per capita.

The not-so-good news:  Sucrose (glucose and fructose) is being replaced by corn syrup (glucose) and high fructose corn syrup (glucose and fructose).

The bottom line: just about everyone would be healthier consuming less of any kind of sugar.

Jul 24 2015

Good news: FDA proposes Daily Value for Added Sugars–10% of calories

The FDA announced this morning that it is proposing a Daily Value (the maximum) for Added Sugars on food labels—10% of calories.

Susan Mayne, FDA’s Director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, explains the rationale: this is the percentage recommended by the Dietary Guidelines and practically every other health authority that has examined the evidence on sugars and health.

Ten percent of calories means 200 calories on a 2000 calorie daily diet, or 50 grams, or 12 teaspoons—the amount in one 16-ounce soda.

If you drink a 16-ounce soda, you have done your added sugars for the day.

If this seems abstemious, consider that 10% of calories is more generous than the amount recommended by the UK’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition:

It is recommended that the average population intake of free sugars should not exceed 5% of total dietary energy for age groups from 2 years upwards.

The World Health Organization’s recent report on sugars and health also views 10% as the absolute maximum:

  • In both adults and children, WHO recommends reducing the intake of free sugars to less than 10% of total energy intake (strong recommendation).
  • WHO suggests a further reduction of the intake of free sugars to below 5% of total energy intake (conditional recommendation).

The WHO report explains:

The recommendation to further limit free sugars intake to less than 5% of total energy intake, which is also supported by other recent analyses, is based on the recognition that the negative health effects of dental caries are cumulative, tracking from childhood to adulthood…No evidence for harm associated with reducing the intake of free sugars to less than 5% of total energy intake was identified.

Americans, on average, consume way more than 10% of calories from added sugars, so this recommendation means a sharp restriction.

It means consuming less of sugary products: sodas, baked goods, and all those packaged foods with added sugars.

The proposal is up for comment.

You can bet that there will be plenty.

Congratulations to the FDA for this one.  Let’s hope it sticks.

How to Comment

To comment on the proposed changes to the Nutrition Facts Label:

  1. Read the proposed changes.
  2. Starting Monday, July 27, 2015, go to to submit comments.
Jun 26 2015

Sugar politics: a roundup of recent events

While I was visiting Cuba, formerly the largest supplier of sugar to the United States and now blocked from selling anything to us, I missed several stories about sugar.  It’s time to catch up with them.

On this last item the Post explains:

While other crop subsidies have withered, Washington’s taste for sugar has been constant. The sugar program, which has existed in various forms since the 1930s, uses an elaborate system of import quotas, price floors and taxpayer-backed loans to prop up domestic growers, which number fewer than 4,500.

Sugar’s protected status is largely explained by the sophistication and clout of a small but wealthy interest group that includes beet farmers in the Upper Midwest, cane growers in the South and the politically connected Fanjul family of Florida, who control a substantial part of the world sugar market.

Attempts to get rid of the sugar program have been constant, at least since the 1970s when I first started teaching about it, but to no avail.  Why not?  Because outrageous as the program is, it only costs the average American $10 per year—not enough to generate widespread opposition, apparently.

The bottom line on all this: eating less sugar is always a good idea.

Feb 22 2013

Kellogg’s Scooby-Doo: nutritionally groundbreaking?

Can something like this be nutritionally revolutionary?


Kellogg has just launched this cereal with just 6 grams of sugars per serving—half of what’s in most other cereals aimed at kids.

It’s also lower in sodium, but everything else about it looks pretty much the same:

Will Kellogg put money behind this cereal and market it with the millions it spends to market Froot Loops?   Will it reduce the sugars in its other cereals?  Will other cereal companies do the same?

Or will Scooby Doo suffer the fate of Post’s no-added-sugar and otherwise unsweetened Alpha Bits introduced in around 2005?

Post put no money into marketing the cereal and dropped it after just a few months (Alpha Bits now has 6 grams of sugars per serving).

Let’s give Kellogg some credit for giving this a try.   I’ve looked for Scooby Doo in grocery stores but haven’t been able to find it.

I will watch its fate with great interest.

Update: Thanks to Cara for pointing out that with Scooby Doo, Kellogg adds a cereal to its portfolio that meets requirements of the WIC (USDA’s Women, Infants, and Children’s nutritional support program).  As Jessica, a Kellogg rep explains, “The benefit of this cereal is that it’s WIC eligible and boosts several vitamins and minerals, is low in fat, is a good source of fiber and vitamin D and an excellent source of iron.”

And thanks to an anonymous writer for pointing out that Scooby Doo is directly competing with General Mills’ Dora Explorer cereal for the lucrative WIC market, one that should amount to nearly $7 billion in 2013.  WIC specifies what the benefits can be used to buy.  Cereal companies want to be sure they are in that market.

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