On May 4th 2009 EFSA published their opinion on labeling reference intake values.

The values proposed by CIAA are confirmed as follows: EFSA are happy with references for total fat at 70 g, saturated fat at 20 g and salt at 6 grams. EFSA found 2000 kcal is good because it’s lower than that of men, but what about kids?

The panel surprisingly also found the 90 g of sugar as an acceptable reference without even commenting on the practical implications for food labeling. This opinion will legitimize CIAA’s efforts to continue promoting GDA labels which are misleading consumers to eat more empty calories. EFSA choose to amputate the currently only instrument available to encourage European consumers to eat a nutrient dense diet. In times of obesity nutrient density is essential. We need more not less nutrients for each calorie.

This desicion will reduce the transparancy of the food market, and make it more difficult for consumers to see the difference between healthy and unhealthy foods, and furthermore couteract the efforts of nutrition education. The incentives for food industry to develop healthier foods, will be reduced and EFSA’s descision will legitimize the increase use of added sugars in processed foods.

EFSA could have made clear that added sugar cannot be calculated and displayed as percent of total sugar when the reference is based on 50% indigenous (sugars naturally present in foods such as fruit, vegetables, cereals and lactose in milk products) and 50 % added sugar. EFSA could consider solving this challenge by proposing an alternative terminology where added sugar and indigenous sugar are not both called sugar.

In my opinion the sugar reference should be changed to 45 grams of added sugar. The caloric value of natural sugar is communicated effectively to consumers under calories on a food label. This would also bring simplicity and clearity to food labelling. Which is needed to improve public health.

See also stopGDA.eu and foodnavigator