The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Friday it wants food labels to include more information about how much added sugar is in a product, so consumers can see more clearly how much extra sugar they are consuming every day.
Specifically, the agency wants the "percent daily value" of added sugars listed on labels.
That is the percentage of recommended daily calories for a particular nutrient. Right now, sugar content is only listed as grams.
Currently, it's recommended that daily calories from added sugars not exceed 10 percent of a 2,000-calorie daily diet.
"For the past decade, consumers have been advised to reduce their intake of added sugars, and the proposed percent daily value for added sugars on the Nutrition Facts label is intended to help consumers follow that advice," Susan Mayne, director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said Friday in an agency news release.
Sugars that are added to foods and drinks boost calories but not nutrients, the agency noted.
Nutrition experts welcomed the proposal, which is up for public review and comment for 75 days.
The Nutrition Facts label now just lists the grams of sugar in a serving of a food or beverage, said Nancy Copperman, director of public health initiatives in the Office of Community and Public Health at North Shore-LIJ Health System, in New York.
"This information does not provide a suggested daily intake or reference guide related to sugar intake," Copperman said. "The new proposal would give people a reference guide and enable them to make a better informed decision about the nutrient quality of food, the portion size and how it fits into their daily diet."
This type of information has been available for decades on nutrients such as sodium and certain fats, the FDA said.
Another dietitian said the proposal would help consumers distinguish between unhealthy added sugars and beneficial sugars that occur naturally in certain foods.
"Currently, there is no good way to decipher between added sugars and naturally existing types, such as what's found in dairy and fruit," said Dana Angelo White, an assistant clinical professor of athletic training and sports medicine at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn. "These natural sugars have much more to offer in the nutrition department compared to highly processed and refined sweeteners."
Separating out a daily percent value would be a "huge help" to people attempting to monitor the added sugars they consume "and the empty calories that come along with them," White added.
Recent research appears to support the FDA's proposal. Newly reviewed studies suggest that a healthy diet, featuring reduced amounts of sugar-sweetened foods and beverages, may reduce the risk of heart disease, the agency said.
"The FDA has a responsibility to give consumers the information they need to make informed dietary decisions for themselves and their families," Mayne said.