Added sugars

Maple syrup producers complain that a Food and Drug Administration labeling requirement will mislead consumers into thinking sugar is added to their product.

Some call it cowboy talk. Others call it straight talk, plain talk, talking turkey or just plain English.

Whatever you want to call it, the Food and Drug Administration often doesn’t do it.

A case in point. The FDA has been monkeying around — there’s some plain talk for you — with the labels the agency wants to paste on jars of honey and maple syrup and on containers of cranberry products.

The FDA wanted to tell consumers what is in honey and maple syrup. If ever there were two products that need no label whatsoever, it’s honey and maple syrup.

What’s in honey? H-O-N-E-Y. End of story.

What’s in maple syrup? M-A-P-L-E S-Y-R-U-P.

There’s no added anything. On the nutritional labels of those two products, only carbohydrates — sugars — are listed.

What the ever-so-helpful FDA was trying to do is point out that if someone put honey or maple syrup on a pancake, he would be adding sugar to it.

Fair enough, except the FDA said that honey and maple syrup contained “added sugars” because they added sugar to whatever they were put on.

In plain language, that is wrong. How or why the FDA ever came up with that idea, we cannot say. That’s like saying milk has added ingredients because some people put it on their cereal.

In the case of cranberry products, anyone who has ever eaten one knows they are tart. To make them less tart, sugar is added to some products made with cranberries. Why the FDA needs to say anything, we cannot imagine. It’s right there on the nutrition label.

Now, however, the FDA has reworked these labels in a way that is still bizarre. The labels now say that if you put honey or maple syrup on a pancake you will add sugar to your diet.

FDA might want to rename its label policy, “Nutrition for Dummies.”

Why the FDA gets itself involved in such tomfoolery, we cannot say.

What we can say is the FDA is the same agency that took the Food Safety Modernization Act and wrote rules that apply to everything from cattle feed — distillers grains — to onions, which had never been involved in food safety problems.

By the time the FDA was done, the food safety regulations included 14 final rules and 36 separate guidance documents on such things as 12 pages on counting the number of employees a farm has. The title: “Determining the Number of Employees for Purposes of the ‘Small Business’ Definition in Parts 117 and 507 (CGMP and Preventive Controls Regulations for Human and Animal Food): Guidance for Industry.”

Good grief.

Such rules are nearly unreadable by anyone who is not a bureaucrat. A new industry has sprung up to help farmers figure out what the FDA means in those documents.

We have a suggestion. The folks at the FDA should go back to school and take a class: English as a second language.

They have bureaucratese down, now they should try cowboy talk.

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